Defining Driving in Virginia DUI Cases

Driving may seem like a simple term that needs no definition but, when it comes to the law, it can be important to know what specifically constitutes driving. Defining driving in Virginia DUI cases can make a difference in the approach that both the prosecution and your defense take towards your DUI case.  A knowledgeable DUI lawyer will know the way Virginia defines driving and can use the different definitions of legal terms to build and bolster your defense. If you have been charged with a DUI, seek the legal services of a skillful DUI defense attorney who can work tirelessly to build a solid case for you.

What is Driving?

Defining driving in Virginia DUI cases is interesting because driving does not really mean driving anymore. The operation of the motor vehicle is important and operating a motor vehicle can mean a lot of things that do not involve the vehicle actually ever being in motion. There are a number of cases within the last 10 to 15 years, where people have appealed the issue of whether or not they were operating the motor vehicle to the Virginia Court of Appeals and the Virginia Supreme Court. Each one of those cases has come down in a way that is not really favorable to the defense.

Essentially, any operation of any function in the motor vehicle is considered operating a motor vehicle, even if the person is not behind the wheel. If a person has the engine running but is in the backseat or they are cleaning out their car from the passenger side, that is considered operating a motor vehicle. Essentially, the statute prohibits any person from being anywhere near a working vehicle if they are intoxicated. What many people do not understand is that something like getting drunk and then sitting behind wheel with the heat on to sleep it off, even in a parking lot or on the side of the road with no intention of driving whatsoever, is still in violation of Virginia law.

Places an Individual Can Be Arrested For a DUI

A person can be arrested on private property or on a public road. There are a lot of complicated aspects to Virginia DUI laws and there are a lot of different laws that apply to Virginia DUIs. The DUI statute itself, which is 18.2-266, does not require that a person be on a public road in order to be found guilty. So, a person can be in their driveway or in a private lot of a retail establishment or a restaurant, and still be found guilty of DUI. However, what is important to note, is that there is another law that applies to every DUI case and that is called the Virginia Implied Consent law.

The Implied Consent law says that by operating a motor vehicle on the highways of the Commonwealth, a person has implied the consent to giving a sample of their breath to determine the level of intoxicants therein. And they use that in order to admit a breath certificate or a blood certificate to show the level of alcohol in their system. The important word in the Implied Consent law in this context is highway. The word highway means a public road, something that is accessible to all of the public. So if a person is arrested and charged with a DUI on private property the implied consent law does not apply to them and therefore the government will not be able to admit into evidence the breath certificate that indicates such impairment.

How Often Do DUI Arrests Not on Actual Roads Occur in Virginia?

DUI arrests often do not occur on actual roads in Virginia. Obviously, the default sort of standard DUI is a cop sees a person driving on the road, a person is speeding or weaving or running the red light, and they stop the car and determine that they have been drinking. But a lot of cases do originate on private property and those are strong issues generally speaking for the defense.

There are certain places in particular that are sort of notorious for having people leave very well under the influence of alcohol, and police officers know where they are and they certainly are watching those parking lots to see if anybody is walking to their car to get in, in a state that they seem to think is not okay. In fact, law enforcement officers tend to patrol parking lots near bars and restaurants looking for DUIs.

What the Prosecution Must Prove

Defining driving in Virginia DUI cases takes on an important role when it comes to what the prosecutor must prove. When proving driving, the operative word is not driving, it is operating and the prosecution needs to prove that the person is operating some functionality of the vehicle. Certainly, if a person is in the car with the engine running, that is operating. A little bit grayer and, frankly still an area of the law that’s being developed, is the cars that have key fobs and push button starts where a person is in the car and the car is not running, but all they have to do is just push a button and start it. There are some people who seem to think, on the prosecutor side, that this constitutes operating in and of itself, and that issue is not fully resolved. But it suffices to say, if a person is in a car and they are drunk, the prosecutor is going to seek to prove in court that they were operating that motor vehicle. If you have been charged with a DUI, get in touch with a DUI lawyer who is aware of the nuances of defining driving and how those nuances may impact your case. Contact an attorney who can fight for you.