In Colorado, driving is very confusing. I don’t mean that the act of driving in and of itself is confusing, I mean that the definition of “driving” in this state is nebulous. On occasion this can cause confusion and even result in (what are in my opinion) innocent people being convicted of DUI or DWAI.
To me, driving requires being in actual control of your vehicle and/or being able to be in control of your vehicle and having the intent to drive.
Why does this matter? Let’s take a look.
Driving Requires Intent
This is a case that happens all the time: someone, for whatever reason, will go sit in the car and turn on the engine to listen to music or run the heater. Maybe they had a fight with their spouse or just got some bad news and needed to be alone for a few minutes. They have no intention of going anywhere, but they’ve been drinking and now they’re sitting in the driver’s seat with the key in the ignition.
A few minutes later, when an officer knocks on the window and smells the odor of alcohol, the person will be taken in for DUI or DWAI.
Most prosecutors will argue that since the car had the key in the ignition and it would have taken very little effort to get the car moving, it’s driving. Despite the fact that the person was not intending to go anywhere, they were technically in control of the vehicle.
There is confusion in this area of the law, especially in the wintertime (think of how cold it gets in Colorado in the winter—cold enough that someone who just needs to be alone would sit in their car and need to turn on the heater to stay warm). There is case law that implies that a person has to have an intent to drive; however, some courts do not give that instruction.
A Gray Area in the Law
DUI and DWAI are fairly common issues in the State of Colorado, but despite how frequently people are caught and convicted, getting a DUI or DWAI is still very taboo. The public will condemn drunk drivers without realizing that most of the time, at least in Boulder, DUIs are handed out to responsible, 65-year-old people who had two glasses of wine at dinner instead of their usual one.
If you have found yourself dealing with a DUI or DWAI—and especially if you were sitting out in the car with no intention of going anywhere—I strongly urge you to consult with a legal professional to get the best possible outcome for your situation.
If you’re currently dealing with a DUI or DWAI situation, let’s talk. Call us at 303-449-1873 to set up a free consultation and we can discuss a strategy to minimize the impact of a potential conviction.