In every DUI case, the first thing that the State must prove before they even start presenting any evidence about blood, breath, or urine results is driving or actual physical control of a motor vehicle. The determination as to whether a person is driving is obvious, and is usually demonstrated by a police officer testifying that they saw the Defendant drive a vehicle. Proving actual physical control of a vehicle is somewhat more complicated, and there are numerous different factors that a court takes into account to determine whether a person whom, although was not driving the vehicle at the time of their impairment, was in actual physical control of the vehicle. (For further information on actual physical control see our previous blogs).
At our firm, we get cases from clients who are charged with DUI when there either was no driving. These clients are both shocked and appalled that they are facing these charges, and rightfully so! Logically, one would think that in order to receive a DUI charge, at the very least the police or someone must have seen you driving. Unfortunately, through a series of cases, the evolution of the law in Arizona has virtually abolished the requirement that a person actually be driving the car in order to be charged with a DUI in Chandler or anywhere else in Arizona. Many police officers see someone in or near a vehicle, find out that this person has been drinking, and automatically assume that they should be charged with DUI without even taking the time to understand that there are a multitude of reasons why that person is inside or near the vehicle. For example, we have had cases where a driver realizes they may be too intoxicated to drive home and decides to sleep it off in their car. An officer approaches, finds out about the drinking and arrests for DUI, even though the person is adamant they were not driving, and had no intention of driving home. This scenario has happened so frequently that is has resulted in a rule called the Shelter Rule. The Shelter Rule is a valid and strong defense to a DUI charge. According to the law, the State is required to show that you were in actual physical control of the vehicle at the time you were under the influence of alcohol. If you were not using the car as a vehicle, but were only using it as shelter, you should not be found guilty of a DUI charge.