What to do if You Get a DUI in a Parked Car in Pennsylvania
Everyone knows that drunk driving is against the law. However, many people don’t realize just how aggressive DUI laws in Pennsylvania can be. As a result, you may wind up being charged with DUI in a situation you did not expect. A common and unexpected scenario sees many people charged with DUI in a parked car.
Do not hesitate to contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC if you have been arrested for DUI in the Pittsburgh area. We can help you through the legal process so you secure the best possible result including a dismissal, acquittal, or reduced penalties.
The Basics of Pennsylvania DUI Law
Generally speaking, the prosecution must prove the following to convict you of DUI:
- You were driving a motor vehicle;
- While under the influence of alcohol; and
- On a public road or highway.
People tend to focus on the second element and ignore the other two. Every state prohibits driving while intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Specifically, having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher constitutes being “under the influence.”
Law enforcement will typically rely on the results from your breathalyzer test to prove that your BAC exceeded the legal limit. Breathalyzer tests aren’t perfect and there are many ways to challenge the results. An experienced DUI attorney can help you determine whether your results are questionable.
However, it’s not enough to prove that your BAC was high enough to be considered under the influence. The prosecution must also prove that you were driving a car on a public road or highway – two elements that are critical if you’ve been charged with DUI in a parked car.
“Driving” a Motor Vehicle is Different Than “Operating”
Even though we commonly refer to the charge as “driving while intoxicated” or “driving while under the influence,” many states use the phrase “operating a vehicle.” This is an important distinction, because “operating” is interpreted more expansively than “driving.”
Operating is defined by many courts to mean that you are in “actual physical control of the vehicle.” As a result, you don’t need to be actually driving the car to be charged with DUI. So to answer the question, you could be charged with DUI in a parked car in the following situations:
- You were sitting in the driver’s seat and the engine was running.
- You were sitting in the driver’s seat and the keys were in the ignition.
- You were sitting in the driver’s seat and had the keys in your possession.
Therefore, you could be charged with DUI if the officer believed that you planned to drive. You could even be charged with DUI while sleeping in your car or even if the car is out of gas.
Can You Get a DUI If Your Were on Private Property?
The prosecution must also prove that you were on a public roadway when you were arrested. Again, this element is broader than many people think. It is not limited to actual public streets, but rather any roadway that is generally open to the public. As a result, you can be charged with DUI while parked in a parking lot or on a private street.
Consequences for Getting a DUI in a Parked Car in Pennsylvania
If you’ve been charged with DUI in a parked car, you should be aware that you face the exact same penalties if you were charged with DUI while actually driving. If convicted, you could face the following:
- Jail time
- License suspension or revocation
- Mandatory alcohol counseling
How a DUI Lawyer Can Help
The facts of your case are critical if you’ve been charged with DUI in a parked car. An experienced DUI attorney will know which facts to focus on and how to challenge the prosecution’s case.
Contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC to speak with a knowledgeable Pittsburgh DUI lawyer. Do not hesitate to call us today at (412) 281-2146 or fill out our online contact form.