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Defining Driving in Virginia DUI Cases 

Driving is driving, but operating is a term that litigators use for a DUI. “Operating a motor vehicle” refers to when a person has a key in the ignition of a vehicle. Defining driving in Virginia DUI cases is important in understanding the components of a case.

If a vehicle is off and the keys are in the ignition, that is considered operating. If a car is running, but a person is not in the driver’s seat, that is considered operating and someone could potentially be in trouble for that. A professional DUI attorney can speak more towards the nuances of driving.

Ambiguity of Driver

If it is not clear who was driving, the passenger could potentially be considered the driver. There have been situations where it is not clear who was driving, and a judge will charge all individuals and try to bring the case against those just to see which one shakes out the conviction.

DUI arrests occur often in parking lots, driveways, and other frequent roadways. A person can be charged with a DUI in most places that are visible to police officers – in a parking lot, on the side of a road, in a drive-through.

How Often Arrests Occur in Virginia

DUI arrests occur fairly frequently. The chance of an arrest occurring for someone who seems intoxicated is about 50-50. If officers have probable cause to arrest, they will.

There are arrests that occur near bars or parking lots that are near bars or near restaurants. Officers surround such areas, especially on weekend nights when people tend to drink more often.

Prosecuting DUI

The prosecution has to prove that a person had some type of control over drinking and driving. It is especially important to understand in a prosecution how to define driving in DUI cases. In Virginia jurisprudence, a person’s keys in the ignition is considered operating a vehicle and a person can be prosecuted.

Contesting in Court

A DUI can be contested in court because a person could contest who was actually in control of a vehicle. An attorney can argue that a person was never actually in control of a vehicle. Maybe they tried to be, but they were not in control.

There are many ways that a person can challenge the statutory interpretation of operating as framed within Virginia law, but it is a case-by-case basis. It gets especially complicated when other vehicles are involved as well. If a person is operating a jet ski, does that count as a motor vehicle for the purposes of a DUI statute? What if it is a self-propelled bicycle, a bicycle with a motor on it? Is that going to count under the purposes of the statute? There are things that are specifically going to count and specifically not going to count. It is important to consult with a DUI lawyer in these situations who can provide a solid understanding and advice about the definitions of driving and other aspects in a DUI case.

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