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But I Wasn’t Driving—How Can I Be Charged with a DUI?

Passenger drinking in car

Evenings out with your friends can sometimes snowball. Perhaps you only planned on grabbing dinner and one beer, and so you drove to the meeting spot, but before you knew it, you were on your sixth beer and in no shape to drive. When last call comes, you might not have anyone to ask to help you get your car home, but you have the good sense not to get behind the wheel yourself. The responsible option, and the option that will prevent you from being arrested for driving under the influence, would seem to be to spend some time sleeping in your car until you’re no longer buzzed, and only then to drive home, right? Not so fast. Learn more about Illinois’ drunk driving laws before you get in your car, even if you hadn’t planned to drive it.

It may come as a surprise, but the law on drunk driving in Illinois doesn’t only outlaw driving while intoxicated. Instead, the law states that an individual “shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any vehicle within this State while under the influence of alcohol.” (emphasis added.) This allows police officers to arrest someone who is intoxicated and also appears to have recently driven or is about to drive their vehicle. This law also allows officers to arrest someone who has fallen asleep behind the wheel while driving drunk.

When Illinois criminal courts, such as Markham Courthouse and Bridgeview Courthouse, are considering a case where an individual wasn’t driving their car while drunk but is nevertheless being prosecuted for a DUI, courts will be tasked with determining whether the suspect was in “actual physical control” of the car. Judges will consider a range of evidence when answering this question, but will be guided by analyzing four major factors:

  1. Did the individual have the keys to the car?
  2. Did the individual have the physical capability to drive the car?
  3. Was the individual in the driver’s seat when discovered by the officer?
  4. Was the individual alone in the locked car when discovered by the officer?

Courts in Illinois are skeptical of a suspect’s declaration that they were merely resting in their car with no intention to drive. Without evidence of some factor that would have prevented that individual from changing their mind and driving away, courts will assume that someone who is intoxicated and sitting in the driver’s seat with the keys to their car was an imminent threat to others on the road and in violation of the law. A skilled attorney may be able to show that someone asleep in the back seat, with the ignition keys far out of their reach, and who clearly did not need to drive the car drunk to reach the location where they were discovered by police, might have an improved chance of escaping conviction for a DUI. Speak with an attorney as soon as possible when facing such charges.

If you are suspected of driving under the influence in Illinois and have been ordered to come before the Bridgeview Courthouse or Markham Courthouse, seek help from a dedicated and aggressive Chicago area criminal defense attorney by contacting John Fairman for a consultation on your case, in Homewood at 708-799-4848, and in Justice, IL at 708-799-4848.

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Lee & Fairman, LLP, has offices in Homewood and Justice, IL and Indianapolis, IN and serves clients in and around Chicago, Indianapolis, Worth, Elmwood Park, River Grove, Melrose Park, Stone Park, Franklin Park, Lincolnwood, Robbins, Schiller Park, Elmhurst, Oak Brook, Hinsdale, Clarendon Hills, Westmont, Amf Ohare, Villa Park, Darien, Evanston, Niles, Lemont, Morton Grove, Downers Grove, Lombard, Park Ridge, Golf, Addison, Lisle, Glen Ellyn, Elk Grove Village, Wilmette, Woodridge, Kenilworth, Des Plaines, Cook County and Du Page County.

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