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Resources, Education, & News Blog

‘Officer, I swear I was not drinking *while* driving.’

A Florida driver who was caught with an open bottle of bourbon had a novel defense to a DUI arrest. He claimed he was only drinking at stop signs. So, you know, he wasn’t drinking while driving. That would be irresponsible.

Obviously, his brilliant legal excuse did not prevent his DUI arrest. It does emphasize that the best advice is to (a) exercise your right to remain silent and (b) get a lawyer who knows defenses that may actually work.

One of the lamest DUI defenses ever

The sheriff’s office was called when a Florida man kept hitting the bumper of another car at the fast food drive-thru. The responding deputies observed an open liquor bottle in a brown paper bag next to him. But Earle Stevens Jr. had an explanation. He wasn’t drinking and driving. He only swigged Jim Beam while stopped at red lights and stop signs, when the car wasn’t moving.

Well, in that case, sir, you are free to go. Thank you for being such a conscientious citizen. (Just kidding. Mr. Stevens was arrested for DUI and driving without a license.)

Seriously, though, what if you are drunk in a vehicle that isn’t moving?

There is legitimate debate about whether a person who is intoxicated can be charged with driving under the influence while sitting in a parked vehicle. It may depend on the jurisdiction, the officer and the circumstances.

If you were found passed out in the driver’s seat with the motor running, you likely would be charged with driving under the influence even though you were not actually observed driving. The statute refers to “operating” or “being in control” of a motor vehicle.

The prosecution might have a harder time proving DUI if you were in the passenger seat or back seat. There may be some wiggle room if the keys are in the ignition but the motor is off. Again, the circumstances will matter. Parked outside a bar or a liquor store? Passed out or fully alert? Neatly between the lines or straddling two parking spots?

In general, it’s a bad idea to “sleep it off” in your vehicle. You may have honorable intentions of not driving drunk, but the police officer who taps on your window may consider you a public menace with the keys to a deathmobile.