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Can I Be Charged with DUI Even Though I'm Not Driving?

Jan. 16, 2017

Yes. In Virginia, you can be convicted of dui even if you're not driving your car. that's because Virginia law says that you can be convicted of DUI if you are driving or operating a vehicle while under the influence. The exact language from Virginia's dui statute (va. code § 18.2-266) is, “It shall be unlawful for any person to drive or operate a motor vehicle…”

What Does It Mean to Be Operating a Vehicle?

In Virginia, operating a vehicle means that the keys are in the vehicle's ignition. So if the keys are in the ignition and you are sitting in the driver's seat, you can be convicted of DUI. In fact, it's becoming common for people to leave a bar or a friend's house and rest in their car before they drive because they don't want to risk getting a DUI. They might turn the heater or AC on because it's cold or hot, or they might turn the radio on to listen to music and a police officer will come up to their window and begin investigating a DUI. If the officer is not satisfied with their performance on the field sobriety tests, he can place them under arrest for DUI. Don't bother trying to argue that you weren't driving the car or didn't intend to drive the car. The police officer will know that in Virginia a DUI includes both driving AND operating a vehicle.

Enriquez v. Commonwealth

Enriquez is the case from the Virginia Supreme Court that said that operating a motor vehicle means putting the keys in the ignition. It's important to note that you don't even have to turn the keys in the ignition. It's enough to simply insert the keys in the ignition and sit in the driver's seat of the car. Here's a link to read Enriquez to understand the court's reasoning: Enriquez v. Commonwealth.

What can I do to avoid a DUI?

Don't get behind the wheel of a vehicle if you've had anything to drink. Even one minute is enough for a DUI conviction. If there's an emergency, you must call the police. If you've been drinking, you can't get in a car and drive away just because you are trying to get away from a bad situation. If an officer does approach your vehicle, you don't have to perform field sobriety tests or provide a preliminary breath test. You should simply say that you would like to speak with your attorney before you speak with the officer.