Believe it or not, even if you are not inside your vehicle, you can still be charged with a DUI. One of the key pieces of proof law enforcement officials is that the driver was in actual physical control of the vehicle when they were intoxicated. Many drivers fail to realize that being near their vehicle still constitutes being in actual physical control.
If law enforcement officials believe a driver is under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, then they may approach the driver. This holds true even if the driver is not located inside their vehicle. In order to be charged with a DUI offense, the driver must be in actual physical control of their vehicle when intoxicated.
What is Actual Physical Control of a Vehicle?
Actual physical control means the driver is seated in the vehicle and, in some cases, near or on top of the vehicle. The keys do not need to be in the ignition in order to be found guilty of DUI. There have been some situations where the driver's keys have been next to the driver on the ground, or even next to the vehicle and not near the offender, and charges have still been brought against the driver.
Why Can a Driver Outside of Their Vehicle Be Charged With DUI?
When the law enforcement official comes into contact with the driver, they can typically tell by their reaction whether or not they are under the influence. At this point, the officer typically requests that the driver participate in a field sobriety test. As with a traffic stop, the driver has the right to refuse the field sobriety test. The law enforcement official will then request that the driver submit to a blood or alcohol test at the police station. Again, the driver has the right to refuse this test.
If the driver refuses to participate in any of the tests requested by the law enforcement official, they must be read the implied consent law. If they do not read this law to the driver, than it is possible the charges against the driver could be dropped. The driver should be aware that, if they refuse to submit to testing, they could face penalties that are harsher than if they had taken the test.
A driver can still be charged with DUI when they are outside their vehicle because the law enforcement official may be under the assumption that, when the driver wakes up, they may attempt to drive. An experienced DUI attorney could attempt to disprove the driver's intent to drive by scrutinizing surveillance videos that may be available in the areas surrounding the incident.
How is DUI defined in the State of Florida?
In the state of Florida, an individual is legally intoxicated if their blood alcohol level is at or above .08, or if the driver's normal faculties are impaired. Normal faculties include the driver's judgment, speech, sight, hearing, and their ability to physically move. Even if the driver is not in their vehicle but has access to their keys, they run the risk of being charged with a DUI.
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