Facing DUI or DWI Without Actually Driving
Police can arrest you for DUI or DWI even without concrete evidence of driving. This means you can face a criminal charge without engaging in physical driving. Appears unusual, doesn’t it? After all, it’s named “driving under the influence” or “driving while intoxicated”.
It’s a common misunderstanding that to gets charged and eventually found guilty of DUI or DWI in Texas, the police must catch you while you’re driving. If you read the law about DUI or DWI as a crime in Texas, it seems like this is the situation. But according to Texas Penal Code § 49.04, there are three main things that need to be proven convincingly:
- You were unlawfully under the influence.
- You were present in a public area.
- You’re operating a vehicle.
Under the Influence
There are two conditions that can lead you to be classified as unlawfully intoxicated:
Firstly, if your blood alcohol content (BAC) registers at 0.08% or higher. This is usually ascertained through examinations using a breathalyzer or a blood specimen.
Secondly, if your normal mental and/or physical faculties were impaired by alcohol, this could mean things like slurring your words or struggling to walk straight. When this happens with drugs or alcohol in the picture and there’s no other reason for it, it can show that you’re illegally intoxicated.
Public areas can even include places that are normally private but open to everyone. For example, a parking lot at a store or a road that goes to your house and other people’s houses is seen as public, as per the law’s definition.
Operating a Vehicle
Now, here’s the tricky part: ‘operating’ doesn’t automatically mean ‘driving’. According to Texas law, “operating a vehicle” means either driving it or being in control of it physically.
What is Physical Control?
Getting charged with DUI or DWI doesn’t solely depend on drunk driving. It’s about showing you had physical control over the vehicle.
Basically, having physical control of a motor vehicle in Texas means you can actually handle or operate it. Typically, if you’re near the driver’s seat and the keys are nearby the ignition, law enforcement could consider that you had control of the vehicle.
The “potential ability” is what can complicate cases. Even if you weren’t driving, being intoxicated could lead to a DUI or DWI charge in situations like:
- Sleeping – You doze off while intoxicated inside a car. You’re at higher risk of a DUI or DWI charge when you sit or sleep in the driver’s seat of a car while drunk.
- Seated or parked – Staying in a parked car with the keys on you or in your bag could lead to a DUI or DWI charge, even if you’re not driving.
- Standing outside a vehicle – Even if you’re not inside the car but you’re positioned near or walking towards it with the influence of alcohol, it might appear as though you’re about to drive. You could face a DUI or DWI charge even if driving isn’t your intention, particularly if you’re holding the car keys.
Ways to Prevent Facing DUI or DWI Charges
Now that we know that you can still be charged with DUI or DWI without driving. Here are some strategies to help you stay on the right side of the law:
- Opt for the Backseat: If you need to sleep in a vehicle, choose the backseat. If that’s not possible, go for the passenger seat. Ensure the ignition isn’t activated; place the keys in the glove box or somewhere out of reach. Also, double-check for any open containers in the vehicle that might suggest drinking while driving.
- Stay Sober: Be mindful of your alcohol intake and know your limits to stay below the legal limit.
- Choose Designated Areas: If you’re in a parking lot or sitting in a parked car, opt for areas away from the driver’s seat and ignition to avoid potential physical control allegations.
- Call for Assistance: If you’re in doubt about your ability to avoid DUI/DWI charges, seek help from a sober friend, family member, or taxi service.
- Don’t drive while intoxicated: Remember that avoiding situations that could lead to DUI or DWI charges is essential for your safety and legal well-being.
Arrested? Don’t Plea, Call Me!
DUI or DWI laws are not as simple as they seem. There are many situations where you could be charged or convicted of a DUI or DWI even without driving. Because things can get pretty complicated, having an experienced defense attorney is really crucial for your case.
Here at Texas Criminal Defense Group, we’ll carefully review your case. We will closely review the charges against you. We will create a strong defense plan that fits your situation. We’ll also handle talking to the other side and make sure your rights are protected during the legal process.