Although DUI is an acronym for driving under the influence, it is a bit of a misnomer in Virginia. Driving your vehicle while under the influence is not strictly required for you to be arrested for and even convicted of a DUI.
Instead, you can be arrested if a law enforcement officer suspects you operated your vehicle while intoxicated.
Operating a Vehicle vs. Driving a Vehicle
“Operation” of a vehicle is a vaguer legal definition than “driving” it.
“Operating” a vehicle in a Virginia DUI case is using the vehicle or having the present capability to use the vehicle. Essentially, if you are inside the car or near it with the keys in your possession, or if you admit to having used it recently, the law can argue that you operated it.
Of course, actually driving a vehicle counts as operating it as well. Intoxication or impairment in conjunction with any form of operation is a recipe for a DUI arrest.
To this end, you can be sleeping in the backseat of your car after having a few drinks and still be arrested for a DUI. In some situations, you could be sitting outside of a parked car, waiting to sober up, and still be considered the operator of that vehicle.
Police can make an arrest after being told of a crime occurring, not necessarily witnessing the crime themselves. In many DUI scenarios, authorities can rely solely on their suspicions rather than hard evidence.
Defending Yourself Against DUIs Without Driving
Being arrested and criminally charged for a DUI creates a tricky set of circumstances, especially when an officer didn't actually witness you drive while intoxicated. Our team can help you get control of the situation and understand what you are up against. I am a former prosecutor who knows how the opposition tries to use evidence in these scenarios. With my insight and the support of my legal team, we can confidently work toward a fair resolution to your case. This may include a case dismissal, charge reduction, or a not guilty verdict.
Operating a Vehicle vs. Driving a Vehicle
In many DUI scenarios, authorities can rely solely on their suspicions rather than hard evidence.
Here are some defense strategies we can use in your case.
You Were Not Behind the Wheel
The most obvious defense is to openly demonstrate that you were not driving at the time of the arrest. The officer is operating under an accusation or an assumption, not direct evidence. If you are, for instance, asleep in the back seat with your keys hidden behind your tire, it’s hard to assume that you are driving under the influence.
If you were arrested for a DUI when you were not behind the wheel, it’s important to question the arresting officer’s probable cause. Why did they jump to this conclusion? Was there an implicit bias based on race, gender, or other unfair discrimination? Any good defense should dissect the reasons behind an arrest.
Questing the Officer’s Sobriety Tests
Did the arresting officer implement any form of testing before making an arrest? When did they perform these tests? Why did they ask you to participate?
These are important questions to answer. Imagine you are sitting on a curb, outside your car, and an officer conducts a field sobriety test. Let’s say they performed the test correctly and accurately concluded that you were drunk. Even so, what was their reason for testing you to begin with? You should always question an officer’s methods and intent in court.
You Were Not Intoxicated
The entire allegation doesn’t matter if you weren’t drunk in the first place. Remember, officers may rely on their suspicions alone to make a DUI arrest.
Many medical conditions can mirror drunkenness to an outside observer. A diabetic crash often leaves someone groggy and confused, appearing to be under the influence. Even severe sinus problems can make someone foggy-headed and vulnerable to an accusation.
Sometimes, a person simply has a unique personality, and they are often accused of being drunk or high when they are stone sober.
Your attorney should be able to trace the timeline of your arrest, proving that you were not drunk at the time.
Get my firm on the case today. Call (540) 827-4446 or send me an email now.