It may come as a surprise to many that an individual could be charged with a DUI regardless of whether the keys are in the ignition. This is because they may still be considered in actual physical control of the vehicle. It is imperative to understand how the law defines this type of criminal offense. If you believe you have been wrongfully charged with a DUI, contact a dedicated Memphis DUI Defense Lawyer who can help represent your interests in court.
Could I face a DUI charge if the keys are not in the ignition?
A common misconception about DUI charges is that an individual has to be driving to be convicted. The law, however, does not state that a person has to be driving to get a DUI; instead, it states that anyone who operates a vehicle can be convicted of a DUI. In this sense, operating means that a person can set the vehicle in motion. This means a person is in actual physical control of their vehicle if they have the apparent ability to set their vehicle in motion. In Tennessee, if a person has a blood alcohol content of .08% or above and they are in physical control of their vehicle, they will be charged with a DUI. When determining whether a person is in actual physical control of a vehicle, the court will examine the following factors:
- Did the individual have a BAC of .08% or more?
- Where was the individual seated in the vehicle?
- Did the individual have possession of the keys?
- Was the engine running?
- Was the individual in the vehicle because it was broken down?
- Where was the vehicle parked?
If a person is seated behind the wheel with their keys in their possession and the engine is running, they are considered to be in actual physical control of their vehicle. However, if the person is in the backseat without their keys and the engine is not running, they are not considered in actual physical control of their vehicle. Additionally, individuals should note that it is illegal to sleep in their vehicle while intoxicated. A person may believe they are making a responsible choice by “sleeping it off” in their vehicle, however, the law does not agree. Alcohol severely hinders an individual’s essential motor skills and cognitive abilities which are required to make smart choices and safely operate a vehicle. Individuals must understand that they can be charged with a DUI regardless of whether the keys are in the ignition.
If you or someone you love has been charged with a DUI, please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our skilled and determined team members. Our firm is committed to helping defend our client’s rights and interests.