Drunk Driving: When a drunk person sits in the driver's seat? Or, key in the ignition? Or, car turned on? Or, car put in gear to move?

To be clearer, I am wondering when police can arrest you for a DUI? I read recently of some guy, who was drunk, getting in his car and not going anywhere (he intended to sleep it off in his car) and the police arrested him for a DUI.

So, at what point does a DUI occur (assuming a person is legally over the limit for alcohol or some other intoxicant)? What if they get in the passenger seat or back seat? Is turning the car on for heat or AC enough?

Like most things motor vehicle, this varies by state.

As far as I know in NJ just sitting in the drivers seat is enough to get a DUI if the police officer wants to be a hardass.

Keys in ignition is apparently enough in most states.

DUI = “Driving under the influence”

I call your attention to the word “driving”. I can’t imagine any jurisdiction where this would apply to a vehicle that was not actually in motion.

Sad to say, you couldn’t be more wrong.

My guess is to attribute this to sloppy reporting. If the event happened at all, they arrested him for something else, and the reporter dumbed it down to “DUI”. Or maybe there were related events that were not reported well enough, like if that guy had announced loudly “I’m going home”, and the police stopped him before he could do any harm. Or something like that.

If I’m wrong, I’d be very interested – like the OP is – to hear the wording of what acts would constitute this presumptive DUI.

From WIKI: “The criminal offense may not involve actual driving of the vehicle, but rather may broadly include being physically “in control” of a car while intoxicated, even if the person charged is not in the act of driving.[6][7] For example, a person found in the driver’s seat of a car while intoxicated and holding the car keys, even while parked, may be charged with DUI, because he or she is in control of the vehicle.”

In some jurisdictions, even sleeping in the back seat of the car while drunk can result in DUI arrest, if you have the keys.

Aye; I know several people charged this way: sleeping it off in their car with the keys in the ignition but not turned on. All were stunned to find that the law was not on their side.

At least in California, the vehicle has to be moving.

It is a shitty and stupid law but I’m sure it has proponents. A good cop wouldn’t enforce it where it is just being an asshole.

IMHO it is neither shitty nor stupid.

I have a vehicle with a push button ignition that works as long as the key fob is within remote range. How does that work, I wonder? If you want to sleep it off in your vehicle in that case, do you have to leave the key fob entirely out of range to not risk a DUI?

So even if the dumbed-down name of the law refers to “driving”, it is actually about being “in control of” the vehicle.

Seeing the words makes all the difference, and suddenly, what had been outlandish makes some sense, at least in some circumstances, at the discretion of the police officer at the time. Thank you very much.

Why? If the person is not actually driving, they are not a danger. Why should that be a DUI offense which has some very serious consequences?

Often some drunk sleeps it off a bit in the back of the car, then crawls into the drivers seat and drives off, still legally intoxicated. Some of my patients did this, and got caught.

A few got caught after causing accidents and injuries.

50 states, 50 potential answers. The Massachusetts statute refers to “operating” a motor vehicle, not driving. I knew a cop in Massachusetts who had made several DUI arrests of people who left a bar and used the keys to try to enter the driver’s seat, even before they sat down. The only part of the car they operated was the door.

a drunk in a car with access plus ability to drive it is always a danger.

What Qagdop said.

If they leave the bar (or wherever) and their choice is leave or sleep it off isn’t encouraging them to sleep it off a better choice? If they think they will get busted doing so they may be encouraged to try and drive instead.

Are those the only options? Why aren’t they sleeping in the friend’s house? Why don’t they call a cab? Why don’t they have someone sober drive them home?