Occasionally, overzealous police officers arrest persons who were not driving a vehicle, but instead were in control of a vehicle. You will need the help of a Los Angeles DWI lawyers to address legality of such arrest and prosecution. The issue of driver just seated in the vehicle while the vehicle is stopped is not addressed in this article. Instead, I am addressing the issue of a moving vehicle where the arrested person was not driving it.
I am familiar with two cases from the California Court of Appeals discussing control v. driving of the vehicles. If your case involves issues of control v. driving you will need to contact DUI Lawer in Los Angeles within 10 days of arrest to preserve your hearing rights with the DMV. The first case comes from 4th district division 3 – covering Orange County. In the case of In re Queen T, the court decided that a driver who steered the vehicle while the vehicle was in motion was in control of the vehicle and was subject to a DUI prosecution. The fact that Queen T was not pressing the breaks or gas was not important. This case has serious implications and will affect anyone who interferes with the driving by grabbing a steering wheel. For example, assume that a designated driver is driving an intoxicated person. If the intoxicated person decides to grab a steering wheel, it is a DUI. As a DUI Lawyer in Los Angeles I have handled cases where an intoxicated passenger grabbed a steering wheel over an argument and caused the car to be pulled over by the police. The passenger was arrested for a DUI even though the passenger was not driving the vehicle. You will need our help to handle this or any other cases involving “no driving” defense.
California is a “control state”, meaning, a driver needs to be in control of the vehicle or to drive a vehicle to be labeled a “driver” (Section 305 of the California Vehicle Code). Prior to Queen T, California Court of Appeals from 4th district division 1 – covering San Diego or Imperial Counties, ruled that a vehicle may be driven eventhough the engine is not in use (People v. Hernandez 219 Cal App. 3d 1177). There, Hernandez’s truck stalled on a freeway and he failed to coast it to the shoulder instead stopping in the number 3 lane on the freeway. Another vehicle hit the back of his truck, injuring occupants. The court imposed duty on Hernandez to (1) turn on flashing lights and (2) take steps to remove the vehicle from the freeway. They opined that as a result of his intoxication Hernandez neglected a legal duty and thus is responsible for injuries within the meaning of DUI causing injuries section of the vehicle code (VC 23153). As a result of this opinion, intoxicated drivers who leave vehicles on the road can be charged with DUI causing injuries (a more serious crime then a simple DUI), even when they are not near the vehicle when the collision happens.