Many people believe that a person can only get arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, i.e. DUI, if he/she is actually driving the vehicle while impaired. However, this is not the case. In Florida, the DUI laws cover a person operating the vehicle or “in actual physical control” of the vehicle. This latter phrase covers incidents where a person is in control of the vehicle and has the capability of driving it, even if he/she is not actually driving it at the time. One common example is where a police officer approaches a person who is sitting in the front seat of the vehicle with the keys in the ignition. If the person is drunk or otherwise impaired by alcohol or drugs, the police officer can arrest him/her for DUI. This situation often arises where a person parks his/her vehicle and falls asleep or passes out in the front seat with the keys in the ignition.
However, in a recent DUI case south of Jacksonville, Florida, the police received a call of a person passed out in his vehicle. When the police officer arrived, he saw the person passed out in the back seat of the vehicle. The keys were in the front seat. The police officer determined that the person was drunk and arrested him for DUI. The DUI charge was ultimately thrown out. Because the defendant was passed out in the back seat, there was no evidence that he was capable of operating the vehicle even though the keys were inside the vehicle. The state could not prove that the defendant was in actual physical control of the vehicle so the DUI charges could not stand.