Factors of a DUI: What Does the Law Look At?

Car keys and drink, symbolizing a DUI.

The idea of driving under the influence seems rather straightforward; you’re driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Though we understand what it is to be under the influence and we understand what it means to drive, that’s not all that the law looks at. Below is an explanation of each of the factors the law looks at for a DUI conviction.

Operation or Physical Control

One of the essential elements of a DUI in the state of Kentucky and its DUI statute, KRS 189A.010 (1), is the requirement that “a person shall not operate or be in physical control of a motor vehicle anywhere in this state.” Therefore anyone who is not operating or in control of a motor vehicle cannot be found guilty of a DUI in Kentucky. 

However, this is where things get a little bit confusing. What actually constitutes “operation” or “physical control?” Is it enough to be sitting behind the wheel? What about sitting behind the wheel with the car in the ignition with the car turned on and still parked? What if the person was simply taking a call or a nap at the time of the officer’s arrival? 

The Four Factors of a DUI

In order to demonstrate that an individual has operated or been in control of a motor vehicle, the state has set forth four factors that the prosecution has the burden of proving:

  1. Whether the person in the vehicle was asleep or awake;
  2. Whether the motor was running;
  3. The location of the vehicle and the circumstances upon which the vehicle came to be at that location; and
  4. The intent of the individual behind the wheel.

The first factor of whether an individual is asleep is fairly easy to observe. However, even if an individual is sitting behind the wheel of the car, so long as he or she was sleeping at the time of the officer’s arrival, Courts have held that this individual is not considered to be in operation of the vehicle. 

The second factor may be more difficult to prove. Though a decade or so ago it would have been easier to perceive whether a vehicle’s engine was running, now with the advent of electric and hybrid vehicles, it can be harder to tell if an electric motor is running since they tend to be silent while running and are designed to stay off when the vehicle is stopped. However, at least one court has ruled that simply starting an engine or motor of a vehicle is not enough to exercise actual physical control of it. 

The third factor of how the vehicle arrived focuses on when the driver became intoxicated: before or after arrival to that location, or before or after parking. It also looks at whether or not the driver was found by the officer prior to the start of any driving. 

The fourth factor focuses on the intent of the person behind the wheel. Kentucky courts have generally held that sleeping drivers in cars that are lawfully parked could not have intended to drive. Additionally, just being awake in the driver’s seat with the engine on does not require proof of intent to drive. 

Been Wrongfully Arrested for DUI?

Answering the questions that surround those four factors can be extremely confusing and at times complicated. However, they can also help to defend against a wrongful DUI for failure to be in operation or control of the vehicle. If you believe that you have been wrongfully arrested for a DUI, call us today

Posted in: DUI