In our experience having represented individuals charged with DUI in Rhode Island for nearly a decade, we have seen people charged with DUI in nearly every possible way. A question we are frequently asked is if you can be charged with DUI if you are in a parked car.
This is really a two part question: (1) can I be ARRESTED for DUI if I am in a parked car and (2) can I be CONVICTED of DUI if I am in a parked car.
CAN I BE ARRESTED FOR DUI IF I AM IN A PARKED CAR?
The Police can, and in most cases likely will, arrest you if you are drunk in a parked car. The standard required to arrest an individual for DUI is merely ‘probable cause' to believe that an individual is driving under the influence. In most cases, the Police will assume that you operated the motor vehicle to its current location while you were in the same physical state that you are in currently (i.e. impaired by alcohol or drugs). An arrest, however, does not automatically lead to a DUI conviction. This is especially true if obtain the representation of a skilled and experienced Rhode Island DUI attorney.
CAN I BE CONVICTED OF A DUI IF I AM IN A PARKED CAR?
Unlike the probable cause standard required for an arrest, to obtain a criminal conviction in a Rhode Island DUI case the Prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you operated the motor vehicle at a time when you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs to a degree which rendered you incapable of safely operating the motor vehicle.
There are two ways we typically defend this type of case. First, you can argue that the Police and the State cannot prove ‘operation' of a motor vehicle beyond a reasonable doubt. Operation is defined by the Rhode Island Supreme Court in the case of State v. Capuano as more than merely turning the motor vehicle on and revving the engine. Typically, Judges require the car to be in motion or to have moved. Therefore, if the car is in your own driveway and on it may be impossible for the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you in-fact ‘operated' the vehicle as required by Rhode Island DUI Law.
In other cases, it may be possible for the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an individual ‘operated' a motor vehicle even if you are in a parked car. For example, if you are stopped alongside the highway in the drivers seat of a parked car a Judge or jury may be able to infer, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you drove the motor vehicle to its present location. In this scenario, we still may be able to defend the case using a hybrid defense. Although the State can prove ‘operation' of the motor vehicle beyond a reasonable doubt through inference, they still must prove that the operator was impaired (or drunk) at the time of operation. In most inference cases, the Police do not have evidence to suggest when the individual actually drove the motor vehicle to its current location. So although the operator may have been impaired when the Police arrived on-scene and interacted with the operator, the State will not be able to provide evidence upon which a Judge or jury could conclude that the operator was impaired at the time of his actual operation. Therefore, without being able to link up the current impairment with the time of actual operation of the motor vehicle, we can argue that the Judge or jury must find the operator not guilty.
If you have been arrested for DUI in Rhode Island while you were in a parked car, contact Attorney Matthew Marin today for skilled legal representation. We are available 24/7 at 401-228-8271 or by email at [email protected].