In Massachusetts, an individual can be charged with OUI even if they are not actually driving the vehicle. If the car is parked, stopped, or even idling on a “public way” or a place where the public “has a right of access as invitees or licensees”, the individual is “operating” the vehicle and can be charged with OUI. In Massachusetts, the “drunk driving” crime is referred to as “OUI”---Operating Under the Influence. There is a very specific definition as to what amounts to “operating” a motor vehicle.
It may seem counterintuitive to charge someone with Operating Under the Influence (DUI) when they were not actually driving the vehicle, but this does occur in Massachusetts and other jurisdictions around the country. These types of charges can lead to a conviction.
From the perspective of the police and the courts, it is an issue of public safety. It can’t be assumed that an intoxicated individual inside a car won’t all of a sudden decide to drive; nor can it be assumed that the person hadn’t been driving while intoxicated beforehand. It is out of concern for public safety that Massachusetts law allows for someone to be prosecuted even if that person was simply trying to “do the right thing.”
If you’ve been charged with a OUI while not driving a vehicle in Massachusetts, you may have a viable legal defense. An attorney can help you review the evidence against you and may be able to bring you a favorable outcome.
DUI While Sleeping in the Car
When OUI charges are brought against someone who wasn’t driving, the individual is sometimes found sleeping in the car by police. Just because the individual was sleeping does not mean they can’t be charged with OUI. Where they were sleeping in the car, whether they had the keys to the car, and whether or not the car was turned on are all questions of fact that will be at issue at trial.
If You’ve Been Charged with DUI While Not Driving
If you’ve been charged with OUI while not driving, you should contact an attorney immediately. It may be difficult for the government to prove that you were, in fact, “operating” the vehicle as defined and required by Massachusetts law. An attorney can mount a legal defense that may result in your a dismissal of your case or a Not Guilty verdict.