Can you be held criminally responsible for someone else’s DUI?

Yes, under certain circumstances. You can be convicted of DUI if youare criminally responsible for allowing someone else to drive your vehicle while drunk.

This was what occurred in the case of State v. Lemacks, which was decided by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1999. The issue arose because there was conflicting evidence as to whether James Lemacks or his friend Clinton Sanchez was driving when the car ran off the road into a ditch and into an embankment. Both of the men had been drinking at a party and a local tavern.

It was the early morning of Oct. 30, 1993, when Sanchez decided to leave the party. Earlier, he had borrowed Lemacks’ car keys so he could listen to the radio in the car. When they left, one party said that Lemacks was driving, while another said Sanchez was driving. They agreed that whoever was driving had “spun gravel” upon starting the car because they didn’t realize the parking brake was on.

After the car carrying two men and a woman passenger slid into the embankment, the woman testified that Sanchez was driving and that she saw Sanchez open the driver’s door from the outside. He allegedly said he had been thrown from the vehicle. However, by the time a Tennessee State Trooper arrived, both men were out of the vehicle.

The trooper allowed Sanchez to leave the scene without questioning. While he was being treated in an ambulance, Lemacks allegedly admitted that he had been driving. A later blood-alcohol test on Lemacks’ blood came back at 0.20%, and he was charged with DUI and vehicular assault.

At trial, however, Lemacks testified that Sanchez had been driving and that he himself had been asleep in the passenger’s seat when the crash occurred.

At the end of trial it seemed unclear who was actually driving, so the prosecution told the jury it could find Lemacks guilty of DUI on either one of two theories. First, they could find him guilty if they believed he was driving. Or, they could find him guilty if he was criminally responsible for letting Sanchez drive while knowing that he was drunk. The jury found Lemacks guilty of DUI but did not specify which theory it had relied upon.

“it is well established that any person who aids or abets in the commission of a criminal offense is guilty in the same degree as the principal who committed the crime,” the Tennessee Supreme Court determined. It was acceptable for the jury to find Lemacks guilty of DUI if he aided or otherwise permitted Sanchez to drive the car while he was intoxicated.

Never lend your car to someone who you believe could be under the influence of an intoxicant. If you are charged with DUI or with criminal responsibility, you need to consult with a defense attorney.

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