Police Don't Have to See a Person Drive to Arrest for DUI

By: Timothy McFarlin | Published: May 5th, 2010 | Category: Driving Under The Influence (DUI)

Contrary to popular belief, police officers in many jurisdictions do not have to see a person operating a motor vehicle in order for that person to be arrested for driving under the influence (DUI).  Here are some cases where a police officer may be authorized to arrest a person for DUI when they did not actually see the person operate a motor vehicle:

Passed out in a parked car:  This is a popular “What If…” scenario.  Some jurisdictions allow a person to be arrested for DUI just for being passed out in the front seat of a vehicle even if the vehicle is turned off and not in motion.  The idea behind this is that a person passed out in the front seat of a motor vehicle has a far greater potential of waking up and deciding to attempt the drive home because alcohol affects a person’s reasoning capabilities so much.

Eye witness accounts:  A person may be arrested for DUI if eyewitness accounts place them in control of a motor vehicle and police testing detects an illegal amount of alcohol in the person’s system.  For this to work the eyewitness may only report a drunk driver within a reasonable amount of time for the police to find probable cause to interview a person on the suspicion that they were driving under the influence.  This means that a person may not report a person they think may have been driving drunk from last week or even last night. 

Following an accident:  If the police have to respond to the scene of an accident and evidence of a possible DUI violation is present, they may initiate an arrest on a suspected offender even though they have yet to determine fault or cause of the accident and never saw the suspected offender actually operate the vehicle. 

This is only a general list meant to illustrate a legal point.  Laws and punishments can change from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  Just because a person is able to get away with something (like passing out in their car in the bar parking lot) in one jurisdiction, it does not mean that they will be able to do so without legal consequences in another jurisdiction.  The best advice that one can follow in regards to drinking is to avoid the front seat of a vehicle at all costs, whether the car is moving or not.

In the event that a person is arrested for DUI, it would be in their best interest to contact a DUI attorney that can explain the law and the options that are available. 

Remember, ignorance is never a defense.  If you don’t know the laws in your local area in regards to DUI arrest and procedure, it would be best to simply avoid the driver’s seat of any vehicle at all costs if you think that you have consumed an amount of alcohol that could impair driving capabilities even in the slightest.

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