6 Ways People Don’t Realize They Can Get Into Trouble for DUIs

Occasionally when I meet someone new, it comes up that I am an attorney who likes to focus his practice on Criminal Defense.  People ask me many of the same questions and, quite often, the topic turns to DUIs.  I have learned that people are often shocked by some of the things they learn and so I am posting some of the DUI facts people have found to be shocking:

1) You don’t have to be drinking to be charged with a DUI

I have written previously about how one does not have to drink alcohol to be charged with a DUI.  Essentially any substance that impairs your central nervous system could make you guilty of a DUI.  A person can be guilty of a DUI while under the influence of a number of substances, including (but being in no way limited to) alcohol, illegal drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and prescription drugs (even if legally prescribed).  Click here to read more on this topic.

2) You don’t have be be in an automobile to be charged with a DUI

The law states that a person in “any automobile or other motor driven vehicle” (emphasis added) might be charged with a DUI.  What qualifies as a “motor driven vehicle?”  That is an interesting question indeed.  Golf-cart?  A rascal?  Bicycle with a motor attached?  One of those children’s toys that look like a vehicle, they sit in it, and they can maybe max out at 2 miles-per-hour?  These questions lead to very interesting (and sometimes quite lengthy) discussions among Criminal Defense attorneys.  Suffice it here to say that if it moves and has a motor, it might be safer to avoid it altogether if you are intoxicated.

3) You don’t even have to be driving to be charged with Driving Under the Influence

Allow me to give you a scenario, one that some of you might recognize: you have been out drinking with friends and, when the night comes to an end, you think to yourself, “I am too intoxicated to drive.”  You decide to sleep it off for a while in your car before driving home.  You might even applaud yourself for a decision you think is quite responsible.

After you get into your car, you put your keys back in your pocket and go to sleep.  A little bit later, a police officer comes along, knocks on your window, and starts asking you a series of questions.  The officer then asks you to step out of the vehicle and asks you to perform a series of Field Sobriety Tests.  Is this officer thinking about arresting you of DUI?  “Surely not, I wasn’t even driving!” you might think to yourself.

Unfortunately, you would be wrong – that police officer might be considering whether to charge you with a DUI.  According to Tennessee’s DUI law, you needn’t have been driving to be guilty of a DUI.  In Tennessee, you can also be guilty of a DUI if you were in “physical control” of the automobile or motor driven vehicle.  While it is another interesting question in some DUI cases of whether a person was in physical control of their vehicle, the Tennessee Supreme Court set the precedent when the Court upheld in 1993 the DUI conviction of an individual who fell asleep in his automobile with the keys. See State v. Lawrence, 849 S.W.2d 761 (Tenn. 1993) (click here to read the case opinion in State v. Lawrence).

4) In fact, you don’t even have to be on a public road to be charged with a DUI

DUIs can occur on “any of the public roads and highways of the state, or on any streets or alleys, or while on the premises of any shopping center, trailer park or any apartment house complex, or any other premises that is generally frequented by the public at large . . . .”  This means that if you live in an apartment complex and drive to get your mail while intoxicated, even then you might be chargeable with a DUI.  If you’re at a bar and go outside to move your car, you might be chargeable with a DUI.  I could list examples all day.

5) “DUI by Consent” * –

Some of you might have heard of something called a “DUI by Consent.”  Often when people use this label, they are referring to Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-10-201, which defines “Parties to a crime.”  Specifically for this article, it defines who is a party to the crime of DUI: “[e]very person who commits, attempts to commit, conspires to commit, or aids or abets in the commission of any [DUI] . . . is guilty of [DUI].”  In essence, if you facilitate a DUI in any way, it is conceivable that you could be charged with a DUI yourself.  Something to think about before getting in a car with a drunk friend behind the wheel.  See Williams v. State, 352 S.W.2d 230 (Tenn. 1961) (click here to read the case opinion in Williams v. State).

6) “DUI by Ownership” * –

Again, some of you might have heard of something called a “DUI by Ownership.”  This often refers to Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-10-202, making it a Class C misdemeanor for “the owner, or any other person, employing or otherwise directing the driver of any vehicle to require or knowingly to permit the operation of the vehicle upon a highway in any manner contrary to law.”  There are many instances where this might become an issue, but should certainly be cause for concern if you allow someone to drive your vehicle if you think they might be intoxicated.

However, it should be noted that someone who owns a vehicle might also be a party to a DUI under Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-10-201 (see sect. 5 immediately above).


* “DUI by Consent” and “DUI by Ownership” are descriptive phrases, and not used as legal terms defined by law.



These are just some of the interesting issues that can arise in a DUI case.  DUIs can be complex in nature and often require an attorney skilled in defending DUI cases.  If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI or other crime, contact attorney Nicholas W. Lee today for a free case consultation.


*“Defending Tennessee” is a privately-ran legal blog and is not a public legal aid agency.

The author of Defending Tennessee is Nicholas W. Lee, Esq., an attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Click here for Mr. Lee’s contact information.  Also, please feel free to visit Mr. Lee’s website, www.TNLawyerLee.com or follow his page on Facebook for updates as to his law practice or new posts to TNLawyerLee by clicking here.

The information on this site is general information and should not be construed as legal advice. Every case is unique and you should consult with an attorney in your state about the specific details of your case. Nothing on this site or in correspondence with Nicholas Lee or his agents shall be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship and information you send prior to the forming of an attorney-client relationship may not be kept confidential. Neither this site nor correspondence with Nicholas Lee or his agents shall be construed as a promise nor as undertaking a duty regarding you or your case. Nicholas Lee and his agents are not retained as your legal counsel unless a valid written Representation Agreement is reached regarding your specific case.

Copyright © 2013. Nicholas W. Lee, Attorney at Law. All rights reserved. This site’s content may not be used without the prior written consent of Nicholas Lee.


2 comments on “6 Ways People Don’t Realize They Can Get Into Trouble for DUIs

  1. […] Under the Influence;” here to read “DUI does not always equal Drunk Driving;” and here to read “6 Ways People Don’t Realize They Can Get Into Trouble for DUIs“).  But […]

  2. […] Implied Consent law (and as readers may already know from other TNLawyerLee articles on DUIs, like this one or this one), these cases can be fraught with complexities – if you or someone you know […]

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