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    Can You Get a DUI if Your Keys Aren’t in the Ignition?

    Posted on: September 17th, 2023 by Dod Law

    Can You Get a DUI Without Keys in IgnitionCan You Get a DUI Without Keys in Ignition

    There can be many different circumstances and facts in your case that may or may not result in a DUI conviction. While being in your car with a BAC of 0.08% or above may not warrant a DUI charge, according to California law, it is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage and has a BAC of 0.08% percent or more of alcohol to drive a vehicle.  Learn more about whether you can get a DUI without keys in ignition.

    An experienced and skilled DUI defense attorney knows how to interpret this law with a particular focus on the word “drive.” They can discern whether law enforcement personnel had probable cause to detain you under the charge of DUI even when they did not actually see you driving the car under the influence.

    Getting a DUI When Parked

    The Mercer v. Department of Motor Vehicles case examined the evidence needed to make a lawful arrest under a DUI charge. According to this case, Barrie Gray Mercer was slumped over the steering wheel of his car, which was parked legally against the curb of a residential street. When police responded to calls from neighbors and woke him up, they observed an alcoholic odor, slurred speech, stumbling, and red, watery eyes. All of these circumstances caused Mercer to be arrested for a DUI. 

    The Superior Court of Los Angeles concluded that this was an unlawful arrest because law enforcement did not observe any movement of the vehicle to say that the man was driving it. The best direct evidence that can be held against you when faced with a DUI charge is if the officer has observed the vehicle’s movement and that you are causing the car’s movement while intoxicated. 

    Do the Keys Have to Be in the Ignition to Get a DUI?

    In the case of Mercer, when the police approached his car to follow up on the neighbors’ calls, his seat belt was fastened, the car lights were on, and the engine was running, clearly indicating the keys were in the ignition. Even with all of these indications, because Mercer never moved the car, it was found to be an unlawful arrest.  

    However, you can be arrested for a DUI without having keys in the ignition. If you put the car in neutral and roll it down a hill without starting it, all while having a BAC of 0.08% or greater, you can be arrested for a DUI because you caused the car to move while under the influence.

    Indirect Evidence That Can Indicate You Were Driving While Under the Influence

    Some can make the argument that when police respond to an accident involving a DUI, they aren’t observing the movement of vehicles at this point. However, they can gather indirect evidence that gives them probable cause that a DUI was involved. They can gather evidence such as:

    • Witnesses statements
    • Traffic camera footage
    • Field sobriety tests
    • Portable breath-testing devices
    • The position of the damaged vehicle or vehicles

    Indirect evidence can also be collected that could indicate that you were driving before police had probable cause to approach your parked car. This can include:

    • Warm tires
    • The car is illegally parked or in the middle of the roadway
    • The vehicle is damaged and located by the scene of an accident
    • No one else could have been driving

    If you’re arrested for a DUI when your car is not moving, the best advice is to remain silent and non-combative. Your lawyer should be able to tell you if your arrest was lawful and advise whether you should submit to any blood, breath, or urine tests you are asked to take under the consent law after the arrest. 

    Learn How the Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys at Dod Law, APC Can Help With DUI Charges

    It can be stressful and worrisome when first charged with a DUI. You don’t know if you’ll have to spend time in jail, how much costs will incur, and how it may impact your ability to work. The attorneys at Dod Law, APC understand how this charge can affect your future and will work hard to lessen the impact.

    The attorneys at Dod Law, APC will analyze law enforcement procedural actions regarding your arrest and any evidence to devise a legal strategy for your specific circumstances. We will do everything we can to get the best possible result for your future. Call us at our San Diego office (619) 814-5110 | Vista office 760-814-6025 or complete our contact form for a free case review of your DUI arrest.

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    Meet Attorney Dod Ghassemkhani

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