Can a Back Seat Driver Get a DUI? It Just Happened in Virginia
We think of a drunk driver as someone in the driver’s seat, impaired beyond the ability to control a car. But a passenger can be convicted of DUI as well.
Brandi Snow Williams of Moneta, Virginia was drunk in the back seat of a car when she began making attempts to grab the steering wheel. Eventually she succeeded, causing the car to veer off the road. She and four others were injured; one of the passengers’ injuries were life-threatening.
Ms Williams just pled guilty to DUI.
At the time, she acknowledged that she was intoxicated, but did not think that she could be charged, since she was a passenger. The grand jury through otherwise.
The moral: if you’re in control of a car, you had better be sober. Even if you’re a back seat driver.
Courts around the country are using their powers to fight drunk driving however they can. Physical Control is the idea that someone who is impaired and in control of a vehicle – even one that is parked – poses a danger and is thus guilty of a crime. Drinkers who have crawled into their cars to sleep, rather than drive home, have been charged with DUI, even though their keys were in their pockets. The laws are designed for impaired drivers who clearly intend to drive but don’t get the chance because they fall asleep or are caught.
This was a much clearer case of an impaired person being in physical control of the car. Ms. Williams had the wheel, and caused the accident.
A reminder if — it’s really needed — that if you’re drunk, don’t drive. Don’t even grab the wheel.