You weren’t actually driving. Why are you facing DWI charges?

On Behalf of | Feb 17, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

You face a charge of “driving while impaired,” but you were not actually driving your vehicle. You may wonder: is that even possible?

The short answer is yes, it is. The definition of “driving” under North Carolina law is an important distinction to make if you face charges.

One question to ask yourself: Were you in control of the vehicle?

The question to ask is not only was someone actually driving while impaired. The law also considers it against the law if there was a risk or chance of someone driving while impaired.

How does that risk come about? Essentially, if someone gets behind the wheel, the assumption is that they are in control of the vehicle. In other words, if someone operated or could have operated a vehicle under the influence, then the risk of DWI charges exists.

As we discussed in a previous blog post, that is why there is a risk of facing DWI charges even if someone chooses to sleep it off in their car. Even if they have no intention of driving, sitting in the driver’s seat with alcohol in their system increases the chance of a drunk driving charge.

So, when exactly are you in control of the vehicle?

North Carolina law specifically states that “driver” and “operator” mean the same thing. Both of these terms under the law indicate that someone is in “actual physical control of a vehicle” that is:

  • Moving
  • Has the engine running

The law on impaired driving also states that driving – or operating – a vehicle in any public area could put someone at risk of a DWI charge, including a public parking lot. Therefore, even if you are parked on the street or in a public parking space with the engine running, you could still face a DWI charge.

It is important to know that there are still ways to defend yourself against DWI charges of any kind. However, you must act quickly to protect your rights.