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Legal Defenses to a California Driving Under the Influence Charges – Person was not Driving the Vehicle

By Spodek Law Group | September 1, 2017

If you are charged with a DUI offense, one of the defenses you can use is that you were not driving the vehicle. While the no driving defense appears to be simple and straight-forward, it is somewhat complicated. Here is a look at how the no driving defense works, how effective it is, and what prove is required.

How Does a “No Driving” Defense Work?
The no driving defense simply means you were not driving the car or that the car was not driven at all. When using this defense, your lawyer will not argue about BAC levels or how drunk you were, you are not breaking the law by sitting in a car while drunk.
The no driving defense applies when:
You are found sleeping in a parked car intoxicated but you did not drive the car
· You own the car but another person was operating it
· Someone reported that you were driving erratically and when police came to your premises, they found you drunk
· You were involved in an accident and the police arrested you for simply standing near the vehicle

Should Police Assume You Are Driving?
The trouble with this defense arises from this question. Most drunk driving charges start in one of the following ways:
· The police pull you over for a traffic law violation and they suspect that you are drunk
· The police stop you at a DUI roadblock and you are found to be drunk
· You get involved in an accident and you either admit to driving the car or a witness testifies that they saw you driving the car
In all the scenarios above, the police are sure you were driving the car because they saw you or were told you were driving. What if they never saw you driving and there is no witness who saw you driving?
The law permits law enforcement agencies to infer that you were driving the vehicle by considering the facts of the case. For example, if the police respond to a report that a vehicle hit a tree and you are found drunk in the driver’s seat, they can reasonably assume that you were driving the car. Therefore, they can arrest you on the assumption that you were driving the car even though they are not right.
Some of the scenarios where the law permits police to assume that you were driving are as follows:
· Where a car with your plate numbers is reported as being involved in drunk driving. When the police arrive at your home, they find you intoxicated
· Police find you resting or asleep in your car, and the engine is running
· You are alone in the car with no one else around
· After an accident, you are found standing next to your vehicle
Although an officer may make these assumptions, it does not mean they will be upheld in court. A no driving defense holds that the police officer made the wrong assumption.

Is a Driving Defense Effective?
A no driving defense is effective provided your story reflects the facts of your case. This means you cannot lie that you were not driving when the facts place you as the driver of the vehicle. For example, if you hit a pole while driving and there is no one around, it is obvious you were the driver of the car.
It is also important for you not to admit to driving. If you confess to witnesses or officers that you were operating your car, it becomes difficult to say otherwise when building a no driving defense case. However, the only way you can take back your word is if there was a legitimate reason that led you to make inaccurate statements.

How Do You Prove You Were Not Driving?
The no driving defense is dependent on the circumstances of your arrest:
· If your car was on the move but you were not driving it, you should be able to point out the driver
· If you are found in a parked or stopped car, and there is no accident, the onus is on the police to prove that you were driving. In any case, it is not unlawful to sit in your car resting while the engine is running

What Evidence is Required For a No Driving Defense To Succeed?
The evidence that can help you succeed in a no driving defense includes:
· An alibi: Someone can testify that you were in another place and not driving the car or that you started drinking after arriving home safely
· Eyewitness testimony
· Video footage: Like a parking lot’s security camera

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