You might find yourself in a situation where you had more alcohol to drink than you planned. You get into your car and realize you might be over the legal limit. Rather than risk a DUI, you take the keys out of the ignition, lay your seat back, and stretch out to sleep for a few hours.
While this might seem like a responsible thing to do, you would be better off hailing a cab, calling a friend for a ride or using a rideshare app to get home. That is because, in Tennessee, you can get arrested, charged and convicted of drinking and driving even if you are not “driving” in any sense of the word.
‘Physical control’ of vehicle open to interpretation
The law states that it is “unlawful for any person to drive or to be in physical control of any automobile… while under the influence of any intoxicant.” The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that determining if someone is “in physical control” of a vehicle while intoxicated requires a totality of the circumstances test. The fact that the vehicle was not running or the keys were not in the ignition does not automatically prove that a defendant was not in physical control.
Don’t give up your rights
The only sure way for someone who is over the legal limit of .08 percent blood-alcohol level to avoid a DUI is to be a passenger in the vehicle. However, being arrested is not the same thing as being convicted. You still have rights, including the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. You should speak to a defense attorney before speaking to police or accepting a plea bargain offer.