For many people, their perception of a DUI stop is officers pulling up behind them when they are driving; they never think they can be arrested for a DUI just by sitting in a parked car.
Under Georgia law, it is entirely possible to be charged with DUI when you are in a parked car.
However, you do have defenses that you can use. Call a Carrollton DUI defense lawyer at Moffitt Law LLC to discuss your case.
You Can Be Charged if You Were Not in the Act of Driving
Going into your car when you are over the legal limit is not the best thing to do. Officers can arrest you for DUI, even if the car is not moving, and the keys are not in the ignition.
In Georgia, the exact wording of the statute is what dictates the result. While DUI stands for “driving under the influence,” the law is written for broader circumstances than just driving. In Georgia, you can be charged with DUI when you have physical control of the vehicle. If you are in the driver’s seat, and you have the keys to the car, you could be legally deemed to be in physical control of the vehicle.
The problem is that there is no clear definition of “physical control” in Georgia law. Like any type of legal issue, the real answer about whether you were in physical control of the car could almost always be that “it depends.” Even if you think that there was no way that you could be charged with a crime, you may find out afterward that both a police officer and the prosecutor thought that you were.
Physical Control Depends on the Circumstances of Your Case
First, a parked car does not necessarily mean that you are not about to drive the car. If the keys were in the ignition and the motor was running, it would be very clear that you could simply change the gear on the car and drive at a moment’s notice.
Second, what the officer found when they stopped you will determine whether you could be charged. The officer will look at the entirety of the circumstances when they stopped you. If it was apparent that you had just driven and parked the car, the officer would be far more likely to arrest you.
If you were sleeping in the car, but the keys were not in the ignition, and there was no evidence that you had just driven, you might not be charged with a DUI. It depends on how close you were to driving and whether there were any indicators that you were getting ready to operate your car.
Defenses to a Parked Car DUI Charge
It follows that your primary defenses would be to argue that there was insufficient evidence to show that you were in physical control of the car. You would need credible testimony that shows what you did. However, you would be up against the government’s contention that your mere presence in the car was enough to constitute physical control.
Another possible defense is that the police officer lacked the reasonable suspicion to stop you.
This defense could carry some weight when you were not driving the car. The police officer would have to articulate something more than just a plain hunch that was the basis for their stop. They need to have observed some kind of erratic conduct or seen you driving before you pulled the car over into the parking lot.
Contact a Georgia DUI Defense Attorney Today
Moffitt Law, LLC can work with you after you have been arrested, ensuring that you can mount the strongest possible legal case on your behalf. Not every DUI charge is automatically self-proving. Law enforcement still has the burden of proof in every case. We will review your case and help you determine if there are any valid defenses to the charge. We may even work to negotiate a plea deal on your behalf.