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A person arrested for driving under the influence in California faces a possible conviction which can include suspension of the individual’s driver’s license. The main reasoning for a driving under the influence charge is that the suspect was caught in the act of driving the vehicle. However, not all prosecutions of DUI cases involve a vehicle in motion. Arrests for DUI often occur when the driver is sitting in a parked vehicle. People frequently ask if DUI charges can be brought against a driver even though the vehicle was not in motion.
Each state has different rules concerning when a driver is considered in control of a vehicle and therefore subject to DUI charges. Some states allow for a DUI conviction even if the car is parked. Other states also allow for charges to be brought against a person in a parked vehicle if the car engine is running. Sometimes prosecutions occur because the keys were in the ignition even if the vehicle engine was off. In those states, the intent to drive while under the influence was established by the mere act of sitting in the vehicle and putting the keys in the ignition.
California law requires further proof of DUI than a law enforcement officer finding a person sitting behind the wheel of a vehicle. The criteria for DUI convictions in California was set by the final court ruling in Mercer versus Department of Motor Vehicles. This case decision requires some proof that the vehicle had been in motion while the defendant was driving before a DUI charge is warranted. Evidence of driving does not have to be concrete such as police witnessing the person operating the vehicle. Police officers use several methods to establish that a DUI has occurred.
Circumstantial evidence of a DUI may come from other witnesses who saw the person driving the vehicle. If the car is stopped in an unusual location, such as the middle of the road, that may be used as evidence of a DUI. Anytime a person is found passed out in a vehicle, particularly if there are no other possible drivers, police will search for further evidence of DUI. A warm engine or tires, which indicate that the vehicle has been just used, along with keys in the ignition or the car’s gears not set to park may be used as proof that a DUI has occurred. A person might receive a DUI charge if they have been involved in an accident and the responding police officers suspect the person of driving under the influence. The physical evidence from the accident along with any eyewitness accounts and even statements from the driver can be used to determine if a DUI charge should be issued.
Observation also plays a role in DUI charges. If police spot a person they suspect of being under the influence get into a car, they might wait until the person starts the vehicle and drives it a short distance. The police officers can pull the car over as soon as the car moves, even if it is still in a parking lot and not on the open road. In these situations, police prefer to stop the vehicle as soon as possible so that the danger to the public is minimized. The circumstances in which DUI drivers were arrested may influence the severity of the punishment they receive if convicted. A person convicted of a DUI while driving on a crowded highway might receive a harsher sentence than one who was in an empty parking lot. People arrested for suspicion of DUI, even if the car was parked, need to contact a Los Angeles DUI Attorney immediately.