The short answer is yes. According to experts from Criminal Law Free Advice, “One of the more peculiar rules in New York concerns the ability to be arrested for drunk driving even if you weren’t actually driving the car.”
Even though DWI refers to Driving While Intoxicated, it is possible to be charged with a DWI offense even if you weren’t driving. DWI charges rely on two main factors:
- The amount of intoxicating substance in your bloodstream
- Your potential ability to physically control or operate a motor vehicle.
It’s the “potential ability” part that usually makes cases tricky. Even if you weren’t actually driving, being intoxicated could result in being charged with a DWI offense in situations including but not limited to the following:
- You fall asleep intoxicated in a car. You are much more likely to be charged with a DWI if you sit or sleep in the driver’s seat of a car while intoxicated. According to Nolo, DWI laws aim to prevent drunk driving before it begins, and “a motorist who’s drunk in the front seat with the keys in the ignition is just a few quick motions away from putting the car in gear and driving away.” Judges in Westchester County NY and White Plains NY look at practical factors while determining DWI convictions – an intoxicated person who was asleep in a back seat with the vehicle’s engine turned off will generally not be as likely to receive DWI penalties as someone who is found intoxicated while slumped over the steering wheel with the motor running.
- As an intoxicated passenger, you’re involved in an accident but the police determine that you were driving or in control of the vehicle.
- You’re intoxicated and standing outside or nearby a vehicle, and police determine that evidence points to you being the driver at fault. Nolo explains that while determining whether an intoxicated person was operating a vehicle or not, judges look at factors such as whether the driver was awake or asleep when the cops showed up, whether the car’s motor was running, the location of the car keys, how close the driver was to the steering wheel, and more.
As you can see, DWI laws aren’t as straightforward as they might seem. There are many more similar and equally complex and potentially convoluted situations where you might be unfairly charged or convicted of a DWI offense even though you were not driving. Due to the complexity of DWI laws, it’s critical to have an experienced criminal attorney backing your case.
Have you been charged with a DWI offense in Westchester County, NY or White Plains, NY? Whether or not you were actually driving, we can represent you and fight for justice for your case. Contact our firm today to find out how we can help!
Darren DeUrso, Attorney at Law
188 East Post Road, Suite 300
White Plains, NY 10601