If you are involved in a car crash or are found behind the wheel of an automobile after drinking too much alcohol, Texas law stipulates that you may be facing charges for driving while intoxicated (DWI). It is important to clarify that Texas law defines driving while intoxicated as an offense “if the person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place.” One of the possible defenses to a DWI charge is that you were not driving when you were arrested for a DWI. As we will discuss, in order to successfully prove that you were not driving, you will need to be able to prove that you were not “intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place.”
As you might imagine, the term “operating a motor vehicle” can be construed broadly by the Texas courts. As such, it will be important to have an experienced Austin DWI defense lawyer on your side to help build a strong defense and to prove that you were not driving when you were stopped and charged with a DWI.
Proving That You Were Not “Operating” a Motor Vehicle
One of the most common scenarios involving DWI charges is that the defendant did have too much to drink at a restaurant or bar, and decided to go out to his car to sleep it off before driving. In other words, the defendant acknowledged that he had too much to drink and, instead of driving while intoxicated, the defendant made the decision to get into the car and to get some rest in order to be sober enough to drive. In some of these scenarios, the defendants do not leave the automobile running, but in some cases—particularly if it is chilly outside—the defendant might turn on the automobile in order to use the heat while sleeping in the car. The defendant, however, has no intention of driving the car. Is this enough to be charged with a DWI?
In Texas, you can indeed be charged with operating a motor vehicle if you are behind the wheel of a parked but running car. In the recent Texas Court of Criminal Appeals case of Murray v. State (2015), a defendant was passed out behind the wheel of a parked car that had the engine running and the radio on. The Court concluded that there was sufficient evidence to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant was operating the motor vehicle.
Evidence That You Were Not Driving the Car
As such, in order to prove that you were not driving, you will need to show that there is sufficient evidence in your case to indicate that you were not, in fact, operating the motor vehicle if your case involves somewhat similar circumstances. What are some ways to show that you were not driving? Here are some examples:
- Your vehicle was parked near enough to the place where you consumed alcohol that you would not have driven the car after drinking;
- You were not behind the wheel of the driver’s seat when you fell asleep at the wheel; or
- Someone else had been driving the car to get it to the location where it was found.
As long as you can provide evidence to show that you did not actually drive the car after becoming intoxicated, and you did not have intentions to drive the car, you may be able to successfully show that you were not driving, and you can beat your DWI charge.