Imagine that you’ve been at a friend’s party and you’ve had quite a bit to drink. You waited a safe amount of time before leaving your friend’s home, but you still figure that it might be safe to pull over anyway. You pull over, turn off the engine, and lean back to sleep for a little while. A few minutes later, a police officer knocks on your window asking if you’ve been drinking.
“What does it matter?” you might think to yourself. “I’m not even driving.”
Regardless, the police officer arrests you for Operating Under the Influence (OUI), and you’re now facing thousands of dollars in court fees, insurance fees, and fines.
Massachusetts, like every other state, has laws that illegalize drunk driving. Other states might call these regulations DUI laws or DWI laws, but our state operates according to the OUI standard. That’s not just a difference in terminology either—it means that your car does not have to be moving (or even on) for you to be charged with OUI.
“Operation” is interpreted broadly in Massachusetts. In some states, a police officer might need to prove that a person was driving or in control of a moving vehicle before charging them with DWI. However, Massachusetts holds drunk drivers responsible for stationary vehicles as well.
Here’s the kicker:
In our hypothetical situation above, you could have saved yourself hours of grief and thousands of dollars by taking the keys out of the ignition.
Another thing you might need to remember is that the OUI standard does not just apply to public roadways. It applies to any private property where the public has “right of access”—this commonly applies to mall parking lots, parking structures, semi-private roadways.
If you’re ever in a situation where you’ve been drinking and you cannot safely operate your car—get a ride. Call an Uber, ask a friend, or stay where you are. If you absolutely need to pull over, take your keys out of the ignition and call a friend. You do not want to risk an OUI charge simply because you were waiting in your car.
If you’ve been charged with OUI, I can help. As a Quincy OUI defense lawyer, I have a 9.5 “Superb” Avvo rating for both criminal defense and DUI. Our firm has won multiple clients’ choice awards for our work in DUI and criminal defense, so do not hesitate to call today.