By Steven Wiley | August 04, 2015 at 11:48 AM EDT | No Comments
Under Virginia's DUI statute, Va. Code 18.2-266, it is illegal for "any person to drive or operate any motor vehicle, engine or train" while intoxicated. Several decisions of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals have confirmed that an intoxicated person may be considered to be "operating" a motor vehicle for DUI purposes if seated behind the wheel with the key in the ignition, even if the car is parked and not running and the person is asleep.
A recent decision from the Fairfax Circuit Court
as reported by Virginia Lawyers Weekly
(subscription required) applies Virginia's broad definition of "operate" to a situation in which an allegedly intoxicated DUI defendant was found asleep behind the wheel of a parked car while holding a key fob in his hand. The particular car, a Nissan Murano, was designed to allow the use of electric accessories through pushing buttons on the key fob and could be started by pressing an ignition button as long as the key fob was nearby. Of importance, the radio lights of the Murano were on, although the car was not running. The court determined that, under Virginia's broad definition of "operate" under the DUI statute, that the defendant was "operating" the Murano by having turned on the radio lights by use of the key fob, leading to a DUI conviction.
Aside from the obvious risks from driving a car while intoxicated, people in Virginia should be very cautious with doing anything that could be considered "operating" a parked car after consuming alcohol, even if in a private driveway.