September 28, 2022

WARNING: You can be Charged with DUI even if you are not Driving

According to Virginia Code 18.2-266, it is unlawful for a person to drive or operate any motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. To better understand how you can be charged with DUI without driving the car, the word “operate” is important.

In Commonwealth v. Enriquez, the Supreme Court of Virginia established a bright line rule regarding what it means to “operate” a vehicle. The Court reasoned, “We take this opportunity to state that the statutory definition of “operator” is controlling and that any individual who is in actual physical control of a vehicle is an ‘operator.’” The Court goes on to say, “when an intoxicated person is seated behind the steering wheel of a motor vehicle on a public highway and the key is in the ignition switch, he is in actual control of the vehicle, and therefore, is guilty of operating the vehicle while under the influence of alcohol within the meaning of Code § 18.2-266.”

In Sarafin v. Commonwealth, the Supreme Court once again examined what it means to be charged with DUI while sleeping in a parked car. Here, the Court deemed that for a person to be charged with DUI, it does not matter whether the car is on a public highway or in a private driveway, as long as the individual is in control of the vehicle then they can be charged with DUI.

So next time you are out having fun and decide to sleep in your car before heading home, maybe think about getting a ride instead. You could potentially be charged with DUI.


Enriquez v. Commonwealth, 283 Va. 511, 722 S.E.2d 252 (2012)

Sarafin v. Commonwealth, 288 Va. 320, 764 S.E.2d 71 (2014)

Copyright © – A Division of McCormick Law, PC. All rights reserved. The results of specific cases reported are not meant to be a prediction or guarantee of any other case. Each case depends upon a variety of factors specific to that case. The testimonials on this website reflect the real-life experiences and opinions of our clients. However, the experiences are personal to those particular clients, and may not necessarily be representative of all clients. We do not claim, and you should not assume, that all clients will have the same experience. Your outcome may vary.