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Colorado’s view on “driving” for DUI

On Behalf of | Jul 31, 2023 | Drunk Driving Charges, DUI and DWAI Charges, DUID |

It is a common assumption that drivers get pulled over and subsequently charged with a DUI, DWAI or DUID when the officer sees them driving erratically or causing an accident. However, there are a variety of other circumstances where the person may face charges even if they are not driving in the typical sense of the definition. In fact, no vehicle movement is necessary.

Essential factors that define driving

The state Supreme Court ruled in 1998 in the People vs. Swain that people are driving as long as the individual is exercising “actual physical control” over the vehicle. These actions include:

  • Whether or not the keys were in the ignition (the car need not be running)
  • Whether the engine was running
  • Where law enforcement found the person
  • Where law enforcement found
  • the vehicle
  • Other evidence that the individual had physical control of the vehicle

In other words…

Based on the above definition, people who sleep in their vehicles are driving even if they are asleep in a parking lot. We get plenty of snow in Colorado — a person is driving if their vehicle is stuck in the snow, even if the wheels are spinning or the car needs a tow. The person is driving as long as they are in the driver’s seat, even if they are getting a tow at the time.

Was law enforcement’s interpretation too broad?

The state’s definition of driving is quite broad, but that does not mean drivers shouldn’t try defending themselves in court. The officers may have made leaps in their judgment that are even broader than those laws. With this in mind, it is always best to discuss a legal case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.