In the state of Georgia, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) carries both criminal and civil consequences. There are many different types of conduct that can lead to DUI charges. Understanding the various conduct that may result in charges is key to avoiding charges altogether.
In every criminal case, there are a series of elements that make up the crime. In DUI cases, there are a number of different “or” elements. In other words, a person may do one thing or another thing to meet a certain element of the offense. We review each of the elements or possible elements below.
Driving Or Actual Physical Control
“Driving” seems to be an obvious action. However, we break it down anyway, for clarity and to illustrate how one might go from driving to physical control. The easiest analysis of “driving” includes where someone is sitting behind the wheel, the key is in the ignition, the car is running, the car is in drive, and the car is going down the road under the control of the driver. However, what if the car is on but in park? What if the car is not on, but the keys are in the ignition? This is where “actual physical control” may play a part in criminal charges.
In essence, if you are in actual physical control, and the other elements of the crime are met, you can be convicted of a DUI. Consequently, the specific details are very, very important in each and every case. Some circumstances which have previously led to a finding of actual physical control include situations where the car is in drive, rather than in park; where the keys are in the ignition; and where there is a lone person in the car, parked in a space that is not a designated parking spot and no other plausible driver in sight.
The government can use other facts to prove physical control as well. Again, every case has its own set of facts and requires its own analysis, however, some past cases where the court found “actual physical control” include:
- Indications the car was recently driven, such as a warm hood or warm tires
- Car parked in an area not designated as a parking spot
- Car parked in the middle of the street, road, or highway
- Car found with physical damage near an accident scene
Different Ways to be “Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol”
Legally, “under the influence of drugs or alcohol” has many different meanings. We discuss these below.
Driving While “Less Safe”
There are several things one may consume which could impair their judgment. These include alcohol, prescription drugs, over the counter drugs, illegal drugs, and inhalants such as aerosol, glue, or other vapors. The consumption of any one of these potential intoxicants alone, or in combination with each other, can result in a DUI charge. However, use of these substances, alone, will not result in charges. Instead, the government must prove that the use of these intoxicants renders the driver “less safe.”
Different people process alcohol and drugs differently. One person may not be any less safe after two glasses of wine, while another person may be less safe to drive after just one. Because this statute recognizes impairment can vary based on individual responses, the amount of alcohol or drugs measured in a person's system does not factor into this type of DUI charge. Instead, the state must prove the driver was “so affected by the intoxicant that it adversely affected his or her operation of the motor vehicle at the time of arrest.” This is a fact issue. Was the driver stumbling around or was the driver attentive and standing still? Did the driver slur their words when speaking to police, or did they speak slowly and clearly? Did the driver perform well on the roadside sobriety tests, or did they fail the tests completely? Each of these facts, and others, can contribute either to the government's case, or the defense of the accused.
Driving With a Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0.08 Grams of Alcohol or More
While the “less safe” DUI focuses on a driver's ability to drive, the “0.08 grams of alcohol” portion of the DUI statute is simply a mathematical calculation. To determine the amount of alcohol in a driver's blood, the state may ask for a breath sample or, in the alternative, ask for a blood or urine test. They will then subject the sample to testing to determine the alcohol concentration present. Of course, as with any form of scientific testing, the methods used, the instruments used, the calculations applied, and the conclusions arrived at are all subject to challenge in court.
Driving With Other Controlled Substances in the Blood
Any amount of marijuana or a controlled substance, including metabolites and derivatives found in the blood or urine of a driver can also be used to charge a person with DUI. However, if the person has a legal prescription for the controlled substance at issue, the government must prove the driver was “incapable of driving safely” as a direct result of using the drug.
Facing DUI Charges?
If you are facing DUI charges in Roswell or Alpharetta, don't go it alone. Call to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced DUI lawyers. Our firm focuses exclusively on DUI charges. As such, we have experience challenging stops of a person's car, the facts surrounding an allegation of “actual physical control,” the government's position a driver is “less safe,” and the accuracy of the test results. Don't wait, call us today at 404.816.4440.