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What Qualifies as Driving in Arlington DUI Cases?

Driving under the influence does not mean a person was actually driving down the road in Virginia. Driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence of alcohol involves “operating” the vehicle, and “operating” has a broad legal definition. Operating a vehicle may be as innocuous as sitting on the driver’s seat with the key in the ignition. Under some factual circumstances, this could be viewed as being in operation of a motor vehicle. This is particularly important, as someone sitting in a parking lot, drunk, but with the heater on and keys in the ignition may be charged with drunk driving.

Could a Passenger Get a DUI Charge in Arlington?

There may be factual circumstances in which a driver relinquishes control of the vehicle to the passenger, and if the passenger grabs the wheel and starts manipulating it, they are legally operating the vehicle. In this instance, that passenger might be charged with driving under the influence in Arlington. However, it is highly unlikely that a passenger would be convicted.

A situation in which they could be charged is when the driver and the passenger switched places after the vehicle was stopped or at a later time. The driver and passenger switch and represent to the officer that the other one was driving. The passenger and driver may do this in some cases where the vehicle gets pulled over, and for some reason (often because both parties know the original driver is drunk) they switch seats.

Experienced DUI attorneys have cases in which drivers change places with passengers mid-operation, after an accident, or switched after cars were found abandoned. These scenarios are still relatively rare, but far more common than a passenger being charged. Usually the police know when the driver switched seats, but even if they don’t the court can find you guilty of DUI for switching seats with a driver while you are intoxicated.

Where Could DUI Arrests Occur Off The Road?

An individual could actually be arrested while sitting on their couch in their own home for a DUI. The officer does not need to encounter them while they are in operation of a vehicle and an arrest only must occur within three hours of the driving behavior upon a finding of the Commonwealth under certain circumstances. Cases may occur in which a driver is charged on a warrant long after the offense, but that creates a tough evidentiary scenario for an officer.

If an officer has reasonable belief that they saw the person’s vehicle and that the driver was impaired, they could use this reasonable suspicion to make an arrest. In these situations, it is especially important to contact an attorney right away to ensure that a person’s constitutional rights are protected. While these arrests do not occur while someone is behind the wheel, it means that legally, they meet the qualifications for driving while under the influence in Arlington.

Parked Vehicle Operation Arrests

DUI arrests in which the officer does not pull someone over for swerving or speeding are common. These types of police interactions are frequently seen in parking lots or on private property in which someone is asleep or passed out in the driver’s seat. This is also more common in the wintertime when a person sleeps in a car and may have the vehicle on to keep the heater running. However, they are inebriated or under the influence of alcohol and do not wake up and turn off their car when they should. That situation may even happen when someone is sitting in their driveway listening to music or sitting in a parking spot waiting for a friend. While these cases do not make up a high percentage of DUI cases in Northern Virginia, drivers should know that getting behind the wheel and turning the car on, even if it remains in park, could lead to a drunk driving charge.

It is quite common for law enforcement officers to be present in the parking lots of bars and restaurants in Arlington. There are multiple opportunities for individuals to consume alcohol, and officers often patrol these areas to look for intoxicated drivers and other illegal acts.

An Attorney Could Help Fight Your DUI Charge in Arlington

The prosecution must prove that the accused was operating and driving the vehicle beyond a reasonable doubt. Generally, this is proven through the officer’s observation and other circumstantial evidence, and sometimes through the admission of the accused. However, defining what qualifies as driving in an Arlington DUI case may be difficult. To learn more and protect your rights, contact a local defense attorney today.

Patrick Woolley Attorney At Law

Patrick Woolley Attorney At Law
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