Most motorists in the State of Washington understand that if they drive while under the influence of a sufficient amount of alcohol, they are subject to violations for DUI. However, many people find themselves surprised to face arrest and DUI charges for seemingly innocuous acts.

Insidious Nature of Alcohol

One of the dangers of alcohol is the fact that long before it substantially impairs motor function or spatial and temporal perception, sufficient levels of alcohol in the bloodstream erode skills in making good judgment and paying attention to the performance of tasks. Often referred to as a lowering of inhibitions, the functions of the brain that act to limit behavior to those which are socially acceptable and generally safe are suppressed. Inevitably risky behavior can result. For a motorist, this can manifest in dangers such as speeding, taking eyes off the road to observe roadside sights, multitasking while driving, and lessened ability to perceive hazards on the road.

Standardized field sobriety tests are designed to detect subtler levels of physical impairment, those that become evident only after continued application of a task, so DUI offenders often find themselves surprised to fail these tests.

But, I Wasn’t Even Driving

RCW 46.61.504 provides that “a person is guilty of being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug if the person has actual physical control of a vehicle within this state and the person has, within two hours after being in actual physical control of the vehicle, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher as shown by analysis of the person’s breath or blood made under RCW 46.61.506.”

A person sleeping off a drinking binge inside a parked vehicle while in possession of the keys, regardless of which seat is occupied, will be recognized by courts as being in control of the vehicle, and therefore subject to the same penalties as an offender actually driving on the roadway. If an alcohol concentration is found to 0.08 or greater, charges and penalties for DUI can result. Other scenarios in which a person might be proven to be in control of a vehicle while intoxicated include those while the offender is outside the vehicle but in close proximity and in possession of the keys.

Some citizens resent this seemingly overreaching aspect of DUI laws, citing that it exceeds the spirit of the law, which is to protect against the harm created by motorists who drive while impaired by alcohol. The law is crafted to understand and respond to the nature of alcohol impairment. It protects against the poor judgment of those who are incapable of evaluating themselves with regard to intoxication, and who would attempt to drive after premature sessions of sobering up.

A lesson to the wise: if you are intoxicated, even slightly, do not go near your car.

DUI laws include impairment by illegal drugs as well. If you are facing charges of DUI, protect your rights and privilege to drive. Contact or call the criminal defense attorneys at 206-621-0500 for a free and confidential initial consultation.