Definition of Driving in Fredericksburg DUI Cases

Fredericksburg DUI law states that it is illegal to drive under the influence as well as operate a motor vehicle under the influence. Therefore, it is possible to get a DUI even if someone was not, strictly speaking, driving.

Operating is broader than driving. The statutes, as well as the appellate cases in Virginia, have made it clear that a person who is sitting in a vehicle with the vehicle turned on is considered to be operating.

Furthermore, if the motor is off but the keys are in the ignition such that the vehicle could readily be turned on, it is also considered to be operating. Because of this, a person can be parked on the side of the road with their engine turned off, but if the person’s keys are in the ignition and the person is under the influence, the person can be charged with a DUI in Fredericksburg.

Law Enforcement

Police are proactive in their efforts to attempt to find people who may be operating their vehicles under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol. Therefore, it is common for law enforcement officers to patrol parking lots near bars or restaurants. Because individuals frequently have one too many drinks at a bar or a restaurant, police will often hang out in these areas and follow people as they leave looking for indicia of impairment.

Prosecution

The prosecution always has to prove that the defendant was the person operating the motor vehicle. In fact, there are a number of situations where this is not the case, and the question of who was operating the vehicle can be called into question. For example, there are accident cases where an individual is in a crash of some kind and the police only come onto the scene after the fact. If the defendant is outside of their vehicle at the time the police arrive, the prosecution must prove in some other way that the defendant was operating the motor vehicle. In most cases, the police will ask the defendant questions to try to get them to admit that they were operating the vehicle. Or, they may ask witnesses whether they saw the person operating the motor vehicle.

However, if the police officer does not witness the defendant operating the vehicle, there can always be a question as to whether the Commonwealth is going to have sufficient proof that even an intoxicated person or someone under the influence was the operator of the vehicle in question.

Charges

It is possible that a passenger can get charged with a DUI when it is unclear to the police who was operating the vehicle. For example, if there are two occupants of a vehicle in a crash and when the police arrive both of them deny being the driver but evidence shows each of them in the vehicle or witnesses place them in the vehicle, the police can charge both individuals.

Since the standard for probable cause is much lower than the standard for gaining a conviction, a warrant can be issued to both drivers. This circumstance is going to be extremely difficult for the government to prove at court, but since a warrant is easy to attain, it is possible that a person could be charged even if that person was not the driver or if there was a doubt in the police’s mind.

How An Attorney Can Help

Dealing with a DUI charge can be intimidating, especially if there is more to the story than is reflected in the charge. A qualified attorney will be able to guide you through the defense process, as well as advise you on the best course of action every step of the way.