In Georgia, a person can be arrested for driving while under the influence (DUI) while sitting in a parked, non-moving vehicle. Most Georgia residents are aware that driving a car while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is unlawful. However, many people don’t realize that it is illegal to sit in the driver’s seat of a parked car while intoxicated. A parked car DUI charge can occur when someone is in physical control of a motor vehicle but not driving the car. The person must be under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or any other intoxicating substance. If you or your loved one are facing a parked car DUI charge in Georgia, speaking with a skilled Georgia criminal defense attorney as soon as possible is vital.
The consequences of a DUI conviction in Georgia are serious. Experienced Georgia parked car DUI attorneys at Carter Pilgrim focus on helping clients fight DUI convictions. We’ve tried some of the most challenging DUI cases in at jury trials and have a proven track record of securing dismissals, favorable plea bargains, and successes at trial for many of our clients. The Law Office of Carter Pilgrim law office is in Suwanee, GA. We represent clients throughout Gwinnett County, Forsyth County, Cummings, Buford, and other surrounding areas.
Understanding Georgia’s Parked Car DUI Law
Georgia statutory law considers driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicating substances to be a serious traffic offense. Georgia drivers cannot drive or be in actual physical control of any moving vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicating substance. O.C.G.A. 40-6-391 (2010)(a). More specifically, Georgia drivers can not be in actual physical control of a moving vehicle while one of the following circumstances is also true:
- The person is under the influence of alcohol to the extent that it is less safe for him or her to operate the vehicle
- The person is under the influence of a prescribed drug, an over-the-counter drug, or and illegal drug to the extent that his or her driving is less safe
- The person is under the influence of aerosol, glue, or any other substance that causes his or her driving to be less safe
- The person is under the influence of any combination of two or more substances mentioned above making it less safe for him or her to drive
- The person has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or more grams within three hours of being in actual physical control of the vehicle.
A Georgia Driver in Physical Control of a Parked Vehicle Can Receive a DUI Citation
The phrase “physical control” is a critical element of a parked car DUI charge. Police officers can cite people with a parked car DUI. The police must have probable cause to suspect that the person sitting in the driver’s seat of a parked vehicle is under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or any other intoxicating substance. For the DUI statute, a driver does not need to be actively driving a car to be in physical control of his or her vehicle.
The Court of Appeals of Georgia affirmed the DUI conviction of a driver who was under the influence of alcohol while sitting in the driver’s seat of a parked car. The driver’s car lights and the ignition turned on when a police officer cited him. Lewis v. State, 149 Ga. App. 181, 254 S.E.2d 142 (1979). In Lewis, the court affirmed that the defendant was ‘less safe” to drive due to intoxication. His intoxication was evidenced by him hobbling, his slurred speech, the smell of beer, and numerous open cans of beer in his car.
The State of Georgia Carries the Burden of Proof in Parked Car DUI Charges
Prosecutors must prove that the defendant was under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or other toxic substances. They must also show that the defendant’s intoxication caused his or her driving to be “less safe.” Or they must show that the defendant’s BAC was at or above .08 percent within three hours of being in physical control of the car.
Defenses to a Georgia Parked Car DUI Charge
The attorneys at Carter Pilgrim use their criminal defense experience to defend their clients skillfully. Often, the circumstantial evidence does not prove that the defendant was intoxicated while in physical control of the vehicle. For example, what if a driver is pulled over after realizing they could no longer safely drive due to intoxication and moved to the passenger seat? While the driver did have physical control while he parked the car, moving to the passenger’s seat demonstrates that he gave up physical control of the vehicle, as a driver cannot control the motor vehicle from the passenger seat.
The facts of every DUI case are unique. The prosecution must prove that the defendant was in physical control of the vehicle at the time the officer issued the DUI citation to secure a DUI conviction. The following circumstantial evidence is often crucial in a parked car DUI case:
- Whether or not the car tires or engine were warm with the police came upon the defendant
- Whether or not the keys were in the vehicle’s ignition
- The location of the parked vehicle
- Whether the driver’s gear was in drive or park
- The location of the driver inside the car
- Whether the driver was the only person driving the car
If You Are Facing a Parked Car DUI Charge, We Can Help
We understand that in many instances, the prosecution does not have adequate evidence to establish a parked car DUI conviction. Facing a parked car DUI charge in Georgia is stressful, and our skilled criminal defense attorneys can help. We will assertively defend you throughout the entire legal process. The consequences of a DUI conviction are severe and can negatively affect you and your loved ones. Contact our law firm today to set up your initial consultation.