DUI Without Driving

May 11, 2015

Driving under the influence is a serious crime in Florida. This makes sense, because driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol puts others’ safety and lives at risk. However, you do not actually have to be driving to be convicted of a DUI.

Driving Under the Influence

Florida law provides that a DUI conviction requires that a person:

  • Be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and
  • Either be driving or have actual physical control of a vehicle.

This means that, as long as a person has the ability to drive the vehicle, he or she does not actually have to be driving in order to be convicted of a DUI. Control over the vehicle can mean as little as sitting in the vehicle with the keys.

There is a story of a Florida man whose roommate complained about his music late at night. The man did not want to turn the music down, so instead he went out to his car and listened to his music there. But deputies knocked at his car window, and decided to administer a field sobriety test. The man failed the test, and was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. The arrest was made because he had his keys in the ignition, in order to play his music, and thus had control over the car.

Control

Control of a vehicle does not mean driving; it means the ability to drive. The intoxicated person must be in or on the car and be capable of operating the vehicle. The ability to operate the vehicle can be demonstrated by circumstantial evidence. For example, the ability to drive may be demonstrated if the keys are in the ignition or on the offender’s person, or if the person is in the driver’s seat.

Any of this circumstantial evidence may have an innocuous explanation. The keys may be in the ignition to heat or cool the car, or intoxicated people may be in cars because they realize that they are too drunk to drive, and want to sleep it off. However, the intent to drive, or lack thereof, does not matter for a DUI. Only the ability to drive is relevant.

Consequences

In Florida, driving under the influence is punishable by:

  • A fine of $500 to $1,000 for a first conviction, or $1,000 to $2,000 for a second conviction, and
  • Imprisonment for up to six months for a first conviction, or up to nine months for a second conviction.

There are increased sentences for third and subsequent offenses, for causing physical injury or property damage, and other circumstances listed in the statute.

For a first conviction, the driver’s license must be revoked for at least 180 days, and up to a year. For second and subsequent offenses, licenses will be revoked for a longer period. Additionally, for a second conviction, an ignition interlock device must be placed for at least one year on every car owned or leased and operated by the offender.

Driving, or simply being in a car, while intoxicated can have serious consequences. If you have been arrested for or charged with driving under the influence, please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a free initial consultation.