DUI Arrests When the Car’s Not in Motion – Can You Be Charged?

If you have had a drink, or multiple drinks, and know that operating your car afterwards may be both unsafe and illegal, you may assume that sitting in your car and waiting it out is the best plan of action. Indeed, you may even consider sleeping in your car after you’ve been drinking, figuring that giving alcohol time to metabolize and get out of your system is a much better idea than driving home.

The fact is that while waiting it out is a safer choice, our lawyer recommends that you don’t do it within your vehicle. That’s because even if your car is not in motion–and perhaps even if it is turned off–you may still be charged with an operating under the influence (OUI) offense.

Massachusetts OUI Laws

Called a DUI in most other states, Massachusetts uses OUI to refer to the crime of operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or another impairing substance. The specific definition for “operation of a motor vehicle” is not found in Massachusetts Code, but it is found in Criminal Model Jury Instructions. To be sure, jury instruction explain that a person “operates” a motor vehicle when not only doing all of the “well-known things that drivers do as they travel on a street or highway,” but also when doing any act that tends to set the vehicle in motion.

The definition continues to read that a person is operating a motor vehicle when they are within the vehicle and intentionally manipulate “some mechanical or electrical part of the vehicle.” Further, the jury instructions specifically continue to read that it is not necessary for the engine to be running for operation to occur.

Don’t Rest, Sleep, or Wait in Your Vehicles if You’re Intoxicated

The jury instructions explained above mean that even if you are not actually driving, the prosecution may have enough evidence to convict you of an OUI/DUI if you are in your vehicle, there is proof of your intoxication, and there is proof of “operation” that meets the definition above. In other words, even if your car is stationary, if you have the keys in the ignition, have turned the car on for heat/air conditioning, have the lights or radio running, or if you manipulate any part of your car, such as the gear shift, you could be considered operating under the influence.

Defending Yourself Against OUI Charges

If you have been charged with an OUI when you weren’t actually driving, you may be very confused and worried about what will happen next. At The Law Offices of Paul R. Moraski, we understand the evidence that the prosecution must collect and present to prove intoxication and operation, and how to defend our clients against such evidence. To start the process of defending yourself and protecting yourself against the most severe of consequences, please call our law offices today for a free consultation. We promise to work hard for you! Reach us at (978) 397-0011 or online now.