Busted for DUI While Parked?

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It may sound odd, but drivers should be aware that they can be busted for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) while sitting in a parked car.

The rules vary somewhat from state to state. In New Jersey, for example, the law says that you may not “operate” a motor vehicle or boat if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% or greater. New Jersey courts have said that if it can be shown that there is an “intent to drive,” even if the car is parked, that is sufficient to result in an arrest for DUI.

Determining whether or not there was “intent to drive” can be a little bit of a gray area. In New Jersey the widely quoted case of State vs. George says, “Operation may be proved by any direct or circumstantial evidence—as long as it is competent and meets the requisite standards of proof.” In that particular case it was pretty easy to surmise that the “operator” intended to drive: the driver, Ronald George, was sitting in a pickup truck at 11:45pm with the motor running and headlights on, talking to a female pedestrian. The judge ruled, “The vehicle’s operating condition combined with defendant’s presence behind the steering wheel permits the logical conclusion of an intent to drive.”

So it is possible that if you’ve had a couple of drinks, and decide that it would be safer for you to pull over and sleep it off for a while, you could still get busted for DUI. It all depends on whether the police could look at you and decide that it’s reasonable to assume that you have “an intent to drive.” Especially on a cold winter’s night, when you might want to keep the motor running to get some heat, it would be easy for the police to get the wrong impression.

The safest thing to do if you feel that you’ve had a little too much drink and you decide to pull over and sleep it off is to get out from behind the steering wheel. If you are sitting in the car with the motor off and you are asleep in the backseat it would be pretty difficult for the police to claim that you intended to drive.

About the Author

Nussin S. Fogel, Esq., has been practicing for over 25 years and is one of the leading slip and fall lawyers in New York. Mr. Fogel founded Fogel Law, a firm specializing in Motor Vehicle Injuries, Slip and Fall Accidents, Construction Accidents and other areas of Personal Injury Law. He has published on various aspects of Personal Injury Law across the web.

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