Under the law in North Carolina someone may be arrested for DWI even if he or she is not driving the vehicle at the time. The law defines a driver and operator for DWI purposes as “ A person in actual physical control of a vehicle which is in motion or which has the engine running.” According to the second part of this definition someone may be arrested and charged with DWI if the car is parked so long as the engine is running at the time.
This law applies to a vehicle that is in a public vehicular area regardless if the vehicle is actually in motion or not. Public vehicular areas are generally any “highways, streets, or parking lots.” Thus even if someone is parked in a parking lot he or she could still potentially be charged with DWI if he or she is sitting in the vehicle with the engine running. There are some cases in which people have been charged with DWI while being parked in their driveway but this generally happens if officers have seen the vehicle moving on a highway or street soon before parking in the driveway.
Situations may arise where a police officer approaches a car with a person sleeping in the driver’s seat, the keys are not in the ignition, and the engine is not running, and the officer charges the person with a DWI. This does not reflect the statute, and would likely cause the charges to be thrown out. An argument may be made if the keys were in the ignition; however, the statute explicitly states the vehicle must be “in motion or which has the engine running.”
If you have been charged with DWI you need to contact an attorney who can best represent your interests. Our attorneys have experience handling DWI cases in NC and will work tirelessly to defend your case. Contact one of our attorneys directly by calling 704-499-9000 or toll free 877-374-5999.