You’ve had too much to drink, and you know that driving wouldn’t be a good idea. But the bar is about to close and you don’t want to abandon your car. So you decide to take a nap in your vehicle, hoping that you will be sober enough to drive in a couple of hours. Suddenly, a police officer knocks on your window, and the next thing you know, you’re in handcuffs.
You may be wondering, “how is that even possible?” The truth is that the actual language of the Virginia DUI statute states that you are guilty if you are “operating” the vehicle while intoxicated. “Operation” has been defined down to mean “having the key in the ignition,” along with other mitigating circumstances.
In the Virginia Supreme Court case of Enriquez v. Commonwealth (2012), the following rule was established:
“…[W]hen an intoxicated person is seated behind the steering wheel of a motor vehicle on a public highway and the key is in the ignition switch, he is in actual physical control of the vehicle and, therefore, is guilty of operating the vehicle while under the influence of alcohol within the meaning of Code § 18.2-266.”
So, if you are trying to be a responsible person and choose not to drive home after drinking, do not sit in the driver’s seat and put your keys in the ignition to turn on the radio or air. It is possible that police will consider all of this as evidence that you moved your vehicle.
At The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller, we advise you not to sleep in your vehicle and risk experiencing this type of situation. Instead, call a friend who can act as your designated driver, request a ride from Uber or Lyft, or use public transportation.
However, if you find yourself snoozing in your car, make sure you sleep in the back seat, the keys are far away from the ignition, such as in the trunk of your car. These circumstances can make it difficult to prove that you have been operating the vehicle before you fell asleep.