You stop at the local watering hole to tip a few cold ones with the boys after work. It's been a really tough day, and you never got around to eating anything all day. 1 round turns to 3, then to 5. Before you know it, you're pretty buzzed.
But, it's late and you have to be up early for work in the morning. So you make your way out to your car, thinking that the brisk evening air will straighten you up – at least enough for the drive home. Heck, it's only a couple of miles.
But as you drive away, you quickly realize maybe this was not your best decision. Your head is spinning, and you're having trouble staying in one lane. So, being the conscientious citizen that you are, you make a different decision – just pull safely off the road, and take a little nap until you feel sober enough to make it home safely.
This is where you need to know exactly what to do.
Let's suppose you decide to stay in the driver's seat, with the keys still in the ignition. You figure, hey, as long as my car is not moving, there's no way I could get busted for DUI, right?
Florida's driving under the influence statute, 316.193, states the legal definition of the offense this way:
Driving under the influence;
- (1) A person is guilty of the offense of driving under the influence and is subject to punishment as provided in subsection (2) if the person is driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle within this state and:
- (a) The person is under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any chemical substance set forth in s. 877.111, or any substance controlled under chapter 893, when affected to the extent that the person's normal faculties are impaired;
- (b) The person has a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood; or
- (c) The person has a breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.
OK, did you read that carefully? Hopefully you noticed the section about “in actual physical control of a vehicle”. That is an extremely important term, and it can mean the difference between going home or going to jail.
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By staying in the driver's seat and leaving the keys in the ignition, it could be argued that you are still in actual physical control of your car, in the eyes of law enforcement. It does not matter that you are sound asleep – the cops will be able to testify that they found you in the driver's seat, and argue that you had the ability at any time to reach out and turn the car on, and drive off. You were thinking you had made the responsible choice by deciding to pull over and sleep it off, but the way the statute is written means you will very likely still be charged with DUI.
If you ever find yourself in this situation, here are some things you need to know.
The police will try to prove that if your keys are within your reach, you still have the ability to be “in actual physical control of a vehicle”. You may have put the keys in your glove box or center console, thinking that would be enough. But, the police don't see it that way.
Your best decision – well, at least your best one since deciding to drink and drive in the first place – is to make sure your car keys are nowhere within your reach. Do you have an automatic trunk release button in your car? Then step out of the car, put your keys in the trunk, and get in the BACK SEAT or PASSENGER SEAT. If that seems like more than you can handle in your foggy state of mind, toss the keys out the window to a spot you can easily find when you wake up.
Now, you're probably saying to yourself, ‘brilliant – now someone can come along and snag my keys while I'm asleep'. And that may be true. But weigh that possible scenario against being placed under arrest for DUI. It's a no-brainer. A DUI, even if it's a first offense, can cost you about $10,000 and result in the suspension of your driving privileges – not to mention the accompanying social stigma that goes along with it.
Drinking and then getting behind the wheel is a stupid choice. But don't compound one bad decision with another. If you decide to pull over and sleep it off, make sure you understand the law, and do everything you can to ensure there is no way for the cops to claim you were “in actual physical control of a vehicle”.
If you are arrested for DUI, you need the help and expertise of a capable DUI criminal defense attorney. The attorneys at Goldberg, Racila, D'Alessandro & Noone understand that being arrested for any offense can be a traumatic experience, and has the potential to completely disrupt your life, and the lives of your family. We're here to offer a free consultation, and to provide the trusted guidance and appropriate legal advice to get you through it.