Can a ‘Drunk’ Passenger be Charged with a DUI?

By Jonathan Blecher on March 27, 2017

Let’s say that somebody is definitely drunk and they are sitting in the backseat of a vehicle or in the passenger seat, can they still
get a DUI even though they were not driving? The answer – it depends.

If a police officer pulled over a vehicle and the designated driver (DD) had a car full of drunk friends, then in this case, “no,” the passengers should not be charged with DUI.

On the other hand, if a heavily intoxicated person walked out of a bar and into their vehicle on a cold night, slid behind the wheel and put the keys in the ignition so they could run the heater to warm themselves up, then in this scenario, they could be charged with DUI even if their plan was to slide over to the passenger seat or climb into the back.

Why could they be charged with DUI? Because, the issue at hand is “actual physical control.” By holding on to the keys, sitting behind the wheel and putting the keys in the ignition, the suspect has just put themselves in actual physical control of their vehicle, which leaves them open to a DUI charge.

Think it’s safe to sleep in your car after drinking? You may want to think again.

The state can actually charge someone with DUI who was impaired and decided to “sleep it off” in their car because the person possessed the car keys, thereby placing them in “control” of their vehicle while under the influence.

When a Driver Switches Places

It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book: the drunken driver switches places with their less-drunk friend, their teenage son or daughter that hasn’t been drinking at all, or their spouse when they get pulled over by the cops.

If the police notice that a driver switches places before, during, or after a traffic stop, the driver can be charged with DUI, even if he or she has moved over to the passenger seat.

Also, if you’ve been drinking and you sit behind the wheel as you wait for friends, respond to texts, or listen to music, you can be charged with DUI, but it’s up to the state to make the charges stick. If you’re 21 or over, you’re not necessarily breaking the law by consuming alcohol.

If you’re facing DUI charges, be sure to contact me before you do anything. As an experienced Miami DUI defense attorney, I can read the police report, listen to your side of the story and help you fight your charges.

Contact Jonathan Blecher, P.A. today for a free case evaluation!

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