“BUT I WAS JUST SITTING IN MY CAR!:” THE “DRIVING” IN DUI

If you are stopped for driving under the influence in Illinois, the State must first prove that you were driving a vehicle. Sounds straightforward, but the definition of driving is not as obvious as you may think.

Under Illinois law, “A person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any vehicle within this State” while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?DocName=062500050HCh%2E+11+Art%2E+V&ActID=1815&ChapterID=49&SeqStart=109200000&SeqEnd=111100000
Of course, if you are in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition and your foot on the gas, any reasonable person would agree that you were driving. The problem comes in defining the term “actual physical control.”

Under Illinois case law, you can be sleeping off your bender in a parked car and still be considered in “actual physical control” of your car for DUI purposes. Courts look at the specific facts of your case including whether you were in the driver’s seat, whether you had the key and whether you were physically able to start the car. You don’t have to actually drive or even intend to drive. Illinois law only requires that you could drive.

You don’t even have to be in the driver’s seat. If you are sleeping in the backseat with the keys anywhere in the passenger compartment of the car, you could still be convicted. Maybe you only went to your car in front of your home to listen to the radio. A court may still find you guilty.

Even arguing that your car wasn’t drivable may not be a defense. In another Illinois case, a Defendant argued that his car was not a “vehicle” since it was stuck in a ditch, and he could not get it out. The Illinois Court rejected this argument, stating that even though a car is disabled due to bad road or weather conditions, it’s still a vehicle. Another driver who tried to start a damaged car was still found to be guilty of DUI.

If you do need to sleep in your car, it’s best to make sure that your keys are not in the vehicle. Leave them at the party or in the house or in the trunk of the car.

If you are charged with DUI, you should consult an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review the facts of your case to develop the best possible strategy for your defense. For example, even if you were sleeping in your car after several drinks with the key in the ignition, a police officer must still have probable cause to stop you. And the State in most cases must still prove that your driving was impaired by the alcohol or drugs.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

About mdkeenan

A criminal and school law attorney with over 17 years of experience, I have successfully represented clients all over the Chicago area. My practice includes DUI, felony, criminal, misdemeanor, homicide, internet crime, retail theft, traffic offenses, cyberstalking, drug crimes, weapons violations, domestic battery and juvenile crime. I also represent families involving school cases. My clients come from all over the Chicago area including Skokie, Wilmette, Niles, Northbrook, Glenview, Evanston, Winnetka, Highland park, Northfield, Park Ridge, Des Plaines and Mount Prospect. I am a member of the ACLU and the Illinois State Bar Association. I serve as a volunteer for First Defense Legal Aid. Se habla espanol.
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