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)