Can Police Charge You With DWI If You Were Not Driving?

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To the dismay of many Texans, the answer is yes. Even if you were not actually driving while intoxicated, the police may arrest you for DWI if they believe you were in actual physical control of your vehicle.

What is ‘Physical Control’?

Essentially, having physical control of a vehicle in Texas means someone has the potential ability to control or operate the vehicle. Generally speaking, the closer you are to the driver’s seat—and the closer the keys are to the ignition—the greater chance the police will allege you had physical control of your car.

You might have heard stories of people “sleeping it off” after having had too many drinks at a party or bar. Sleeping it off in the driver’s seat can put you at risk for a DWI arrest, as can placing your keys in the ignition. Even if you were asleep when the police came to investigate, you could very well be charged with DWI.

One of the main reasons police will make a DWI arrest without vehicle movement is that someone in the driver’s seat is, theoretically, only a few seconds away from operating the car. Police are keen to stop DWIs before they happen. That’s why it’s not uncommon for Texas law enforcement to arrest people for simply sleeping in their cars.

Remember: the legal BAC limit in Texas is .08 for non-commercial drivers at least 21 years old. The limits are stricter for those driving commercial vehicles.

Physical Control is a Double-Edged Sword

Knowing that police officers in Texas may arrest someone for DWI without witnessing the defendant actually driving is alarming for many people. However, this could work to a defendant’s advantage in court.

Without hard evidence (video footage) of the defendant driving erratically, prosecutors may have a more difficult time proving actual physical control. However, only experienced and skilled attorneys are able to exploit this gray area.

First-Time DWI Offenders Are In a Better Position

Penalties for first-time DWI offenders are typically less severe than those imposed on repeat offenders. Beyond statutory penalties, though, prosecutors are often more likely to work with defense counsel on plea deals. This can be especially advantageous for professionals who want a quick and efficient resolution to their criminal charges.

If you have a livelihood and reputation to protect, Kimbrough Legal is the firm for you. Our team has experience working with local prosecutors. We understand the stress a DWI charge can bring to defendants and their families. Attorney Tycha Kimbrough can provide caring and professional legal counsel so you can get on with your life. Contact the firm today to set up an initial consultation.

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