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Drinking in a parked car can still lead to a DUI charge

On Behalf of | May 15, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

It’s common knowledge that drinking and driving is against the law. No person who drives after drinking expects to get away with it. This is because the risk of getting into an accident or injuring another person is so great that the law unequivocally discourages this behavior.

But what happens when someone drinks in a parked car? Is that still dangerous and, therefore, illegal? The answer depends on a case-by-case basis, but the law is a starting point for those seeking answers to this question.

What Missouri law says

According to state law, an individual commits the offense of driving under the influence (DUI) if they operate a motor vehicle while in an intoxicated or drugged state. The key term here is ‘operate.’ In Missouri, ‘operate’ extends beyond merely driving.

An individual can be considered as ‘operating’ a vehicle if they are in physical control of it. This broad interpretation implies that being in a parked car while drinking could potentially lead to a DUI charge.

Were the keys in the ignition?

If a police officer finds an individual in a parked car under the influence, they might decide to press charges based on their interpretation of the situation. If this happens, it’s possible to challenge the charges in court. One crucial aspect courts examine when deciding if a person was ‘operating’ a vehicle is the location of the keys.

If the keys were not in the ignition, it might be more challenging for the prosecution to prove that the individual was in ‘actual physical control’ of the vehicle.

Mount a defense against DUI

It’s important to remember that ‘actual physical control’ is not explicitly defined in the statute and is subject to interpretation. The court could also consider other factors, such as the individual’s location in or near the vehicle, the location of the keys and whether the individual was asleep or awake.

Considering that Missouri has one of the highest rates of drunk driving incidents, understanding the nuances of the law becomes crucial. Plus, several factors come into play in each DUI case.

Anyone facing this kind of situation should seek the help of a legal professional. A legal professional can help an individual charged with a DUI understand their legal position better.