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Can I Get a DUI While in a Parked Car?

Posted on January 10, 2024

Colorado’s DUI laws are designed to address not only the act of driving while impaired but also being in physical control of a vehicle. This means that if you are inside a parked car you could still face DUI charges even with the engine off.

When Can You Get a DUI in a Parked Car?

The key factor in determining whether you can get a DUI while in a parked car revolves around your level of control over the vehicle. If you are in the driver’s seat, have the keys within reach, and could reasonably operate the vehicle, law enforcement may consider you in control, leading to a potential DUI. Here are several scenarios that highlight the complexities of DUI laws in parked cars:

  • Engine Off, Keys in Ignition: Even with the engine off, if you are found with the keys in the ignition, this situation could result in a DUI charge.
  • Engine Off, Keys Elsewhere: If the keys are not in the ignition and are, for instance, in your pocket or elsewhere in the car, the likelihood of facing a DUI charge decreases. However, law enforcement and a judge may still assess the circumstances to determine if you had the intent and ability to drive.
  • Sleeping in the Car: Being asleep in the car does not necessarily exempt you from DUI charges. If you are in the driver’s seat with the keys within reach, authorities may still consider you in control of the vehicle.

Factors such as the location of the keys, the individual’s behavior, and any admissions of intent to drive can influence law enforcement’s decision on whether to make an arrest for DUI or a judge’s decision on whether to convict.

Potential Defenses

While each case is unique, here are some potential defenses that individuals facing a DUI charge while in a parked car may explore:

Lack of Intent to Drive

If you can establish that you did not have the intent to drive the vehicle while impaired, it may be a valid defense. This could include providing evidence that you had a designated driver, arranged alternative transportation, or had no plans to drive until sober.

Keys Not in the Ignition

If the keys were not in the ignition and were, for example, elsewhere in the car, you may argue that you were not in control of the vehicle. The absence of the ability to quickly operate the vehicle can be a relevant factor in your defense.

Unlawful Police Stop or Search

If law enforcement lacked reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle or conducted an unlawful search, evidence obtained during the stop can be challenged. Any constitutional violations could result in the exclusion of evidence, weakening the prosecution’s case.

Challenging Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests are commonly used by law enforcement to assess impairment. However, these tests are not foolproof, and their accuracy can be challenged. Factors such as uneven terrain, weather conditions, or medical conditions may affect performance.

Witness Testimony

Eyewitness accounts or statements from individuals present at the time of the alleged offense can be crucial. They may testify to your sobriety, lack of intent to drive, or other factors that could undermine the prosecution’s case.

Inaccuracies in Chemical Tests

Challenges to the accuracy and reliability of chemical tests, such as breathalyzer or blood tests, can be part of the defense. Issues with the maintenance of testing equipment, calibration, or administration may be explored.

In any case, it is critical to consult a qualified Breckenridge DUI Defense Attorney. They can assess the specific details of your case and determine the most effective defense strategy.