Joseph J. Colarusso, Attorney at Law
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Can you be charged with DUI while not driving?

It seems pretty simple to evade a DUI. If you happen to be intoxicated and in your vehicle, you just pull over and park. However, Connecticut case law has established that police, under certain circumstances, may still arrest and charge a person with being under the influence even if the person is not actually driving on the road. This cannot happen under a DUI, but it may under an OUI, also known as operating under the influence.

The 2006 court case State Of Connecticut V. Andrew C. Haight litigated the question of a Connecticut driver who was charged with operating a vehicle under the influence. A policeman had discovered a vehicle that was legally parked on the side of a street in New Canaan. The vehicle’s headlights were on. The driver was asleep inside the car with the key in the ignition, but the motor was not turned on. After awakening the driver, the police officer subjected the driver to sobriety tests, which the driver failed. 

After a number of court actions, Connecticut’s appellate court found that the defendant was indeed guilty of an OUI charge. The court wrote in its opinion that nothing about operating under the influence meant that the vehicle in question had to be in motion or the vehicle’s motor to be operating while the person was intoxicated. The court did not accept that having the key in the ignition but not having it turned on constituted a non-operation of an automobile.

The difference between driving under the influence and an OUI is that the police have wider latitude to arrest someone under an OUI. Driving under the influence denotes that a person is actually driving a vehicle. An OUI refers to mere operation of a vehicle, which under Connecticut law is much more broadly defined and can subject individuals to arrest even if they are not actually driving.

Being aware of how the police might arrest you for being intoxicated is important. However, since many OUI and DUI cases differ, you cannot consider this article as legal advice. Its purpose is only to inform readers on DUI topics.

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