Driving “under the influence” (DUI) or “driving while intoxicated” (DWI) is always a dangerous and possibly deadly thing to do. You can be charged with a serious criminal offense with severe penalties if done in Ohio.
If you’re charged with “operating “a vehicle while you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, then to obtain a conviction for your DWI or DUI, the Ohio prosecutors must prove three basic elements for the offense:
- You, as the driver, were in a “vehicle.”
- You were legally intoxicated at the time.
- That you, as the driver, were “operating” the vehicle.
The factor that causes much confusion is that Ohio state law requires the “operation” of the vehicle for you to be charged with a DWI or DUI. This “operation” can be legally defined as causing or having caused the movement of the car you’re in.
Simply put, you, as a drunk person, merely sitting in the driver’s seat of a car many times, should not be charged with a DWI or DUI, as this offense requires actual movement of the vehicle.
It’s vital to note that this does not mean you won’t be arrested for sitting drunk in your car. However, with the help of a qualified, professional criminal defense lawyer, you may be able to get these charges lessened or even dismissed. As in most laws, interpretation often helps (or sometimes hurts) your case. An experienced Cincinnati DUI/DWI lawyer will work aggressively to use the available evidence to prove that you may have been charged in error as you were not “operating” the vehicle.
Another situation to note is that there is no qualifier in Ohio’s statutes for private vs. public property. So, Ohio DUI or DWI law does not distinguish between drunk driving on personal property or public roadways. Accordingly, the police can arrest you in a private business parking lot, an arena parking area, or even a private driveway.
How Is a “Vehicle” Defined Under Ohio DWI or DUI Law?
This is another complex and possibly confusing “gray” area, and the term “vehicle” is very broadly defined in Ohio.
While some may not be aware, many other motorized vehicles are covered by Ohio’s DUI or DWI statutes. You could conceivably be charged with DUI or DWI while operating a motorized bicycle, motorcycle, golf cart, ATV, or even a boat. It may seem odd, but people have been charged with operating bikes, scooters, and unicycles; but these charges are rare.
All the evidence, and charges, in DWI or DUI cases, are, for the most part, the same. It simply doesn’t matter whether you’re operating a car, bus, boat, or some other type of vehicle.
So, you must always be aware: If you are operating almost any vehicle and are impaired, using a golf cart or bicycle will, most likely, not protect you from the law.
Can I Get a DUI or DWI for Sleeping In My Car in Ohio?
Here is another “gray” of Ohio’s DUI and DWI laws; although you may not be “operating” the vehicle at the time, circumstances may exist that result in your arrest for DWI or DUI. After a night of drinking, you might even believe that this is a good idea to avoid a drunk driving charge, but it is not.
Yes, it’s usually true that the police must prove you were “operating” your vehicle; however, they do not need to observe you doing so. The police often use circumstantial evidence to establish your operation of the car, bike, etc., and still charge you with DUI or DWI.
For example, some circumstantial evidence that may prove you were driving the vehicle include:
- Your engine is running, or the hood may still be warm.
- Tires tracks that are still warm.
- The keys are in the ignition, and you are in the driver’s seat.
- Your vehicle was pulled over on a busy road or highway.
- Your car is damaged and at the scene of an accident.
This charge is a prime example where an experienced, thorough Cincinnati DUI or DWI lawyer’s advice will be invaluable to your case. With the help of your lawyer, you may have a unique opportunity to either get your case dismissed or your charges significantly reduced. Remember that developing a winning defense strategy is almost always based on the circumstances surrounding your arrest.
How Can My Lawyer Use the “No Driving” Defense Against My DWI Charge in Ohio?
In Ohio, if you’ve been charged with a DUI or DWI but were not “operating” the vehicle, you may have the charge reduced to a physical control. “Physical control” is not legal fiction and is found in the Ohio DWI and DUI statutes.
Let’s say you were in your vehicle but not driving. Then this might be an example of where you’re detailed and experienced Cincinnati DUI lawyer could use this defense. In particular, DUI or DWI cases, the “no driving defense” could help you immensely.
However, there are two ways you can still get arrested even if you were not “driving” and were under the influence; they also could be termed “gray” legal areas.
- Your “operation” of the vehicle may include simply turning over your ignition key.
- “Physical control” is defined as being in the vehicle’s driver’s seat and possessing the ignition key. However, this is not the same as a DUI or DWI.
This is another clear example of how the “circumstances” detailed in your unique situation may help or hurt you. However, it’s also a prominent example of how an aggressive, detail-oriented, winning DUI or DWI lawyer can use their knowledge and experience to help you enormously. This type of case is an example that, if drafted and presented correctly, many times may be dismissed or have your charges reduced.
I’ve Been Charged With DUI While Sitting In My Car; How Should I Proceed?
Suppose you’ve been charged with DUI or DWI while in your parked car in Ohio; you usually will have your first court appearance within five days. So, you don’t have much time to decide whether to plead guilty or contest your charge.
Protecting your rights and your freedom is the most important job you and your Cincinnati criminal defense DUI lawyer must secure. Being convicted of your first DUI or DWI offense could devastate your life and your entire family.
The first and most critical thing to do is to consult immediately with an experienced, knowledgeable Cincinnati criminal defense DUI lawyer. Your lawyer will analyze all the aspects of your case and fight to “get ahead” of the State’s case and obtain the best possible outcome for you, your family, and your future.