Definition of Driving for DUI Law Purposes

The Definition of Driving for the DUI Laws

California Vehicle Code Chapters 23152 and 23153 require as an element for conviction is that the individual accused of the crime is required to “drive” a motor vehicle. At first glance, once an individual who is inebriated or is under the influence of medication which impairs the motor functions, is operating a motor vehicle on a highway violates the law.

This is often not the factual circumstances present in any DUI arrest which may lead to conviction. While the statute is plain in its language, there are still interpretations which the law was not able to clearly cover in its wordings. Thus, the courts have provided the interpretations to situations that the law failed to contemplate. Here are some of the instances which interpret driving under California DUI laws.

  • The term “drive” is understood as volitional movement of the vehicle while the “driver” is one who is in physical control of the motor vehicle. In the case of Mercer v. DMV, the term “actual physical control” is not present in the statute and the term driving and physical control can have two different meanings.
  • Actual physical control is not enough to constitute driving, in the case of Keeler v. Superior Court of Amador County, which interpreted the Mercer ruling. There must be volitional movement of the vehicle to be considered as driving.
  • In both cases, proof at trial that volitional movement of the vehicle while the individual under the influence is driving occurred must be presented and uncontroverted. In the case of In re Queen, this proof is to be presented as circumstantial evidence at trial.
  • There is also no difference, whether the volitional movement of the vehicle while the individual intoxicated is driving, be done in private property or in public highways.

Thus, the circumstances when the police officer called the attention of the driver determine if there is a violation of DUI laws. It has also been held that opening a door of a parked car is not considered as “use” or “operation” under DUI laws. Stationary vehicles, even if the engine was running, may or may not constitute as driving depending on the surrounding facts present at the time of the arrest.

In order to be fully apprised as to the application and effect of the DUI statute to your case, it is best to reach out to experts in the field. Do call the DUI Attorneys of the Law Offices of Ramiro J. Lluis for a free consultation today.

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