Switch to ADA Accessible Theme
Close Menu
Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyers > Blog > DUI > Can You Be Charged with DUI If Your Car Was Parked?

Can You Be Charged with DUI If Your Car Was Parked?


When the average person hears the term “driving under the influence” (DUI), they may assume that the police can only arrest you on such a charge if the suspect was actually driving. In other words, the police officer must observe you actually operating your car on the road. Surely, a person could never be charged with a DUI if they are just sitting in their car with the engine off?

In reality, however, such a charge is possible. Georgia’s DUI statute does not technically require proof that the defendant was driving their vehicle on the road. Rather, the law states that it is an offense to “drive or be in actual physical control of any moving vehicle” while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, and other intoxicating substances. The phrase “actual physical control” is crucial here, since it means the state does not have to prove a defendant was actively driving when stopped by police. All the government must prove is that the defendant had physical control over a moving vehicle.

Defining “Actual Physical Control” in Georgia

This brings us to another key point. Nobody needs to see you driving your car for the state to prove physical control. Let’s say a police officer sees a parked car on the side of the road. The driver is asleep inside. There are no other persons present in the car. The officer notices the hood of the vehicle is still warm and the key is in the ignition.

Assuming the officer had a lawful reason to initiate a stop–say the vehicle was parked illegally–and arrest the driver on suspicion of DUI, these circumstances could be enough for a jury to infer that the driver was in actual physical control of the vehicle even though it was parked. The fact the officer never saw the driver operating the vehicle on the road would not bar a conviction. Indeed, circumstantial evidence of “actual physical control” is sufficient for a conviction under Georgia’s DUI laws.

That said, the government still needs to prove every element of a DUI–including actual physical control–beyond a reasonable doubt. Depending on the facts of a case, a driver charged with a “parked car” DUI may be able to refute circumstantial evidence of physical control. For instance, maybe there was another person in the car who had physical control just before parking the vehicle. Or maybe there was no proof the car had recently been driven. And as with any DUI case, there may also be grounds for challenging the initial detention of the suspect by the police.

Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers Today

If you are facing DUI charges for any reason, it is critical that you seek out qualified legal advice. A skilled DeKalb County DUI lawyer can review your case and advise you of your options. Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers today. We serve clients throughout Georgia including Atlanta, Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Cobb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn