Sitting in your car: DUI but not Driving?
Whether you are out having drinks in the dead heat of summer or in the middle of a cold, bitter winter, some of you might chose to "take shelter" or "sleep off" those few drinks in the comfort of your car with the radio playing or the heat or air conditioner blasting, but beware: You can be arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence or Driving While Impaired for even just sitting in your car. Some of my clients are surprised to learn that you do not need to be moving the car down the road for the State of Maryland to prosecute you for DUI. If you have been charged for doing just this, you need an experienced Maryland DUI Lawyer to represent and defend you.
The charge of Driving Under the Influence, under §21-902 of the Maryland Traffic Code, actually includes to "drive, operate, move, or be in actual physical control of a vehicle" or an attempt to do the same. (§11-114 The Maryland Vehicle Law Annotated definition of "Drive"). Maryland case law is well settled on what it means to be in "actual physical control" of a vehicle. See Atkinson v. State, 331 Md. 199, 627 A.2d 1019 (1993). The list of factors to consider in deciding whether a person is actually "driving" or in "actual physical control" of the vehicle while under the influence include the following:
1) was the vehicle's engine on or motor running?
2) where was the person physically located in the vehicle? Front seat? Back seat?
3) was the person awake or asleep?
4) where was the key to the vehicle found? In the ignition? In the car?
5) were the headlights, brake lights or other electronics operating?
6) where was the vehicle parked? Was it in the roadway, shoulder? legally parked?
It is important to note that no one factor will decide the outcome of a case and that all of the facts and circumstances surrounding any traffic stop and arrest must always be considered in weighing the strength of the State's case. Another important note is that the Maryland law uses the term "vehicle," not "motor" vehicle; hence, this includes "any device in, on or by which any individual or property might be transported or towed on a highway." (§11-176 Maryland Traffic Code). So, yes, you can get arrested and charged for a DUI on a bicycle in the State of Maryland, but this is not the subject of this blog. The point here is that if you drink and get in a parked car to "sleep it off," you must always keep these factors from the Atkinson case in mind. Act responsibly, and be sure you are not in actual physical control of that vehicle. Otherwise, you could be arrested and charged with a DUI.
The Maryland DUI law is surely not meant to discourage anyone from leaving your car parked and staying off the road if you feel you have had too much to drink. But if you have been charged with DUI or DWI while parked and sitting in your car, The Law Office of John R. Discavage, P.A. has litigated this issue many times and knows what it takes to defend you. You need an experienced DUI Lawyer to argue that you were not in actual physical control of that vehicle. It is possible to be acquitted of drunk driving under these circumstances, so contact us to see how we can help you.