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Many drivers in Alabama think that in order to be charged with drunk driving, they have to be physically driving the vehicle when stopped by law enforcement. They would likely be surprised to learn that under the state’s current drunk driving laws, there are several other scenarios that could lead to a DUI charge.

The definition of driving in Auburn DUIs is that the individual charged only has to be in actual physical control of the vehicle. This means that it is possible for an individual who is sitting or sleeping in a vehicle that is parked to be arrested and charged with drunk driving.

If you were not driving your vehicle when stopped by police, then a prosecutor must prove that you were still in physical control of the vehicle. By examining the evidence against you, a DUI defense attorney may be able to prove your actions did not meet Alabama’s definition of driving while intoxicated.

Definition of Driving in Auburn DUIs

When Alabama originally passed a law addressing drunk driving, the definition of driving in Auburn DUIs was that the driver had to be physically driving the vehicle in order to be charged. If a police officer found an intoxicated driver pulled sitting in a parked vehicle, the driver could not be charged with a DUI, even if the keys were sitting in the ignition.

In 1980, lawmakers revised the law to require that drivers only had to be in actual physical control of the vehicle and they could be charged. The issue, however, is that when this new legislation was written, lawmakers failed to apply a definitive definition to “actual physical control of the vehicle” and it is instead left up to a judge in each individual case.

By leaving the definition up to the interpretation of the judiciary, the result has been multiple cases that have made it all the way to the Alabama Supreme Court. Two of the leading cases that are often cited as the basis for a lower court’s decision include Cagle v. City of Gadsden, 495 So. 2d 1144 (Ala. 1986) and Adams v. State, 585 So.2d 161 (Ala. 1991).

Standard Set By Cases

Using the standard set by these decisions, when a judge is determining whether the definition of driving in Auburn DUIs has been met by the prosecutor, they will examine the following questions:

  • Where in the vehicle was the individual located?
  • Where was the ignition key located?
  • What was the condition of the vehicle—was the engine running, were the lights on, etc.?
  • Was the vehicle parked or stopped somewhere, and if so, how did it get to that location?
  • Was the vehicle broken down, stuck, inoperable, or unable to be move for any other reason, and how easily could the individual have solved the issue and moved the vehicle?
  • What was the level of the individual’s intoxication?

Contact an Auburn DUI Defense Attorney Today

If you were charged with drunk driving, it may be critical to your case to begin building a defense against the charges right away that your actions did not meet the definition of driving in Auburn DUIs. An Auburn DUI defense lawyer is available to meet with you and discuss what legal options may be available based on the circumstances of your case. Call today to get started.