What’s in a name? When it comes to DWI charges, you might be surprised. After all, the acronym stands for driving while intoxicated. Therefore, when you’re charged with DWI while you’re parked, you may be shocked. More than likely you’ll be confused about what it actually means to operate a motor vehicle in New Jersey.
Here’s the interesting thing. New Jersey’s DWI statute is a bit vague when it comes to defining the motor vehicle operation. Although you might assume that the terms driving and operation mean that the car was in motion, that isn’t necessarily the case.
When it comes down to it, the New Jersey courts have long applied a broad definition to include more than driving a vehicle on a public roadway. The fact that you put the car in park because you realized you were intoxicated may not help your case.
DWI Law is Expansive
There’s a fair chance you realized you were drunk and pulled off to the road. In fact, you might have even decided to sleep it off. Indeed, it sounds like you made the right call.
However, did you remember to turn the car off? If you left it running, this could set you up for a ticket. Were the keys in the ignition? Once again, you might be charged with driving while under the influence. Your proximity to the roadway is yet another factor that could get you in trouble. The bottom line is that the car doesn’t have to be in motion for you to operate it.
What’s more, you don’t even have to be awake to be considered operating a motor vehicle. A number of traffic citations have been written indicating a driver passed out at the wheel of a parked car was operating the motor vehicle. Take for example a recent case where a New Jersey man was arrested for DWI after he was discovered asleep in the driver’s seat of his car parked near a pond.
When the police approached the vehicle, they found a bottle of alcohol between the accused’s legs. The officers then administered field sobriety tests and placed the man under arrest after he failed the tests. The story goes on even further that, with the man charged with DWI a second time on the same day.
These interpretations of what may constitute “operating” a motor vehicle should give you pause before you consider sleeping it off in your car after a night of drinking. It is a risky proposition to be in a vehicle while intoxicated, especially with the ignition running. Arranging for a ride or calling an Uber may seem like a hassle, but it pales in comparison to the cost of defending a DWI charge.
It might sound crazy. However, there are more things you should know about New Jersey’s drunk driving laws. They also apply to a vehicle owner that knowingly allows an intoxicated person to operate their vehicle. With that in mind, you could face charges for DWI if you were a passenger in a car you owned, but let someone else drive! In fact, you don’t even have to be in the car. While these types of prosecutions are rare, it is worth noting the long reach of the statute.
Under New Jersey law, you could face DWI charges if your vehicle was moving or parked. The penalties for drunk driving are steep, and it is critical to seek counsel from attorneys with experience in defending DWI cases. Feel free to contact us today to set up a consultation.