Elements Of A DUI

Man passed out in carMost misdemeanor DUI-DWI cases can be reduced to a few elements which the state must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt except in a “per se” offense, in which the prosecution does not have to prove that consumption of an intoxicant affected the defendant’s ability to operate a vehicle. The elements of a DUI are:

  1. The operation or use
  2. Of a vehicle
  3. While intoxicated
  4. In a public area.

Operation or Use

Defining the operation or use of a vehicle is not as cut and dry as most people normally believe when it comes to criminal defense. “Operation” of a vehicle only requires an intent to place a vehicle in motion. This can include simply starting an engine. Some courts have held that if an officer finds a person sleeping or unconscious in a non-moving vehicle with the engine running, it can be considered “operating.”

For most of us, “driving” is the actual act of driving. However, in some states, it can also include steering a vehicle being pushed. If a person is found broken down on the side of the road or stuck in snow and they are behind the wheel, there is a chance they could be considered “operating” the vehicle as well.

If a person is in a vehicle that is not running, the location of the defendant and ignition keys become a factor. A person behind the wheel with the keys either in the ignition or in their possession can be considered in actual physical control.

It is important to remember you do not have to be driving to be arrested for DUI. Despite statutes of each state, reliable evidence must be presented by the state to sustain DUI-DWI convictions.

Of A Vehicle

Every state’s DUI-DWI laws include automobiles, trucks, and motorcycles. The type of vehicle comes into consideration when an unusual means of transportation is used by the defendant. Other types of “motor vehicles” can include boats, tractors, mopeds, and snow mobiles.

The term “vehicle” is more generally defined and can vary from state to state. For example, one Ohio case held that a bicycle was a “vehicle.” In North Carolina, a horse was considered a “vehicle”, but another case in Louisiana ruled a horse was not a “vehicle.” These are examples of how such a broad term can be interpreted by different courts. It is important to find a knowledgeable criminal attorney in your state to help with your specialized case needs.

While Intoxicated

States consider a person intoxicated or impaired if they are under the influence of alcohol, under the influence of drugs, or under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs. Impairment can be caused by alcohol, prescription drugs, and/or illegal drugs.

In A Public Area

Most states do not explicitly state where a DUI-DWI offense may take place. For states that do not state locations where you can be charged with DUI-DWI, this is typically considered both public AND private property.

If a state statute specifies “public roads or highways,” private properties are typically not included unless stated. This can include public areas such as parks, road shoulders, and bike paths. It is important to note that “private” parking lots of businesses are considered to have public access. Thus, you can still be charged with a DUI if you are in a parking lot.

FREE Case Evaluation

DUI-DWI charges are complex and require attention to detail. The attorneys at TeamDUI.com are well educated on all of the variables in their state laws and regulations. Let one of our attorneys help you understand your legal rights. They can evaluate your case and provide you with informed choices before your court date. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call us at 1-844-TEAM-DUI (1-844-832-6384) or fill out a free online case evaluation. An attorney will contact you to discuss your case.