Can I Be Charged with DUI If My Car is Parked or Not Running?
“DUI” is short for “driving under the influence.” “DWI” is the acronym used for “driving while intoxicated.” We often refer to either of those criminal offenses as “drunk driving.” Given that the word “driving” is used in the name of all of these alcohol-related offenses, it would be understandable if you thought that you had to actually be driving your car – hands on the wheel, foot on the gas, moving down the road – in order to be arrested, charged, and convicted of a Florida drunk driving offense. You’d be wrong.
While there is no such crime as “drunk parking,” you can be convicted of DUI in Florida even if your car is parked and not running. This means that you can be arrested for doing what you think is the right thing. Say you were out drinking and got in your car to drive home, but you quickly realized that you had one too many and decided, wisely, not to do so. Instead, you leave your keys on your lap and decide to sleep it off in the driver’s seat while parked in a parking lot. You never turned on your car, you never moved your vehicle. If an officer taps on your window, wakes you up, and asks you to perform a field sobriety test, he or she can arrest you for DUI if they believe you are intoxicated.
This is because Florida’s DUI law provides that you can be convicted if your blood alcohol content was over the legal limit (0.08) and you were “driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle.”
“Actual physical control of a vehicle” is a vague phrase, but has been held by Florida courts to mean that an accused “must be physically in or on the vehicle and have the capability to operate the vehicle, regardless of whether he/she is actually operating the vehicle at the time."
This analysis, and the difference between an acquittal or a DUI conviction, can often come down to where in the car the you were or where your keys were. If you’re in the driver’s seat and your keys are in physical reach, even if they’re not in the ignition, that will likely be a more than sufficient basis for a DUI conviction. But even if you leave your keys on the roof, or if you sleep in the back seat, you may not be out of the woods. A judge will look at all the facts when making a determination as to whether you were in “actual physical control.”
Given the consequences of a DUI conviction, you don’t want to try handling such a nuanced and fact-intensive issue by yourself. An experienced South Florida DUI defense attorney will be able to assert the strongest possible argument that you were not in control of your vehicle, and that you had neither the intent nor capability to get on the road. If you’ve been charged with DUI in South Florida, you should reach out to an aggressive and skilled lawyer as soon as possible.
Albert Quirantes: Your Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer & DUI Lawyer
For over 29 years, Miami criminal defense attorney Albert M. Quirantes has been aggressively and zealously defending the rights of those accused of felony and misdemeanor crimesthroughout South Florida. With his dedicated team, reasonable legal fees, and a well-earned reputation for challenging prosecutors at every turn, he has protected over 8,000 clients during some of the roughest times of their lives.
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