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Can you get a DUI for sitting in a parked car?

On Behalf of | Mar 29, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Imagine the following scenario: you are out at a bar with friends, and it’s time to head home. You get out of your car and suddenly realize you’ve had too much to drink, so you decide to get into your vehicle and order a ride. It’s cold, so you start your car to turn on the heat.

You look up from your phone when police knock on your car window, and before you know it, you’ve been charged with a DUI. How is that possible when you weren’t even driving?

Understanding “physical control”

North Dakota’s DUI laws extend beyond just driving a vehicle. They also include anyone having “physical control” of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

But what constitutes physical control? The concept hinges on the potential to operate a vehicle. The following are situations where you could be considered in physical control:

  • If the keys are in the ignition, in your hand, or otherwise easily accessible, police officers could argue that you can operate the vehicle.
  • Sitting in the driver’s seat instead of the back seat can also imply control over the vehicle.
  • A vehicle that is operable poses a risk if the person inside is impaired, regardless of whether it’s moving at the time.

The penalties for a DUI conviction in North Dakota are stringent. Depending on a person’s blood alcohol content, a first offense could include:

  • $200-$750 fine
  • Up to two days imprisonment
  • An addiction evaluation

A second offense within seven years:

  • $1,500 fine
  • At least ten days imprisonment
  • An addiction evaluation
  • 360 days of participation in a 24/7 sobriety program

For subsequent offenses, the penalties are even more severe.

If you find yourself facing a DUI charge, even in a parked car, it’s crucial that you discuss your case with someone who can help navigate the court process and advocate on your behalf.