Many people think that impaired driving laws apply only when someone is driving a car, truck or commercial vehicle on a public road while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In fact, state DWI/DUI laws can be much broader than that. North Carolina’s laws are no exception.
For example, North Carolina courts have determined that “driving” a vehicle can be interpreted as having physical control of it as long as the engine is running. “Physical control” doesn’t have to involve having your hands on the wheel.
If you pull over on the side of the road because you’re too drunk to drive and fall asleep in the driver’s seat without turning off the engine, you could find yourself under arrest. Even if you move over to the passenger seat or get into the back seat to sleep it off, you may still be considered to have physical control of the car if you have access to the keys.
You don’t have to be driving on a public road to get a DWI/DUI. North Carolina law refers to “public vehicular areas.” Court decisions have determined that those include parking lots belonging to private businesses.
The term “vehicle” is broadly interpreted as well when it comes to impaired driving. In North Carolina, you can be charged with DWI/DUI for riding a bicycle, lawn mower or motorized scooter while under the influence.
Note that operating a boat and other vessels used on the water, including water skis and even surfboards, can get you arrested for boating while impaired. That’s a different crime than DWI/DUI but a serious one nonetheless.
Operating farm equipment, such as tractors, while under the influence can be especially dangerous. In fact, Arkansas’ law that makes doing so a crime was named after a man who lost his life in an alcohol-related farming crash.
The intent of DWI/DUI laws is to prevent people from injuring themselves or others while operating a vehicle or any means of transport under the influence. If a person’s actions could have put people at risk, even if nothing happened, they could find themselves under arrest and even convicted.
If you’re facing DWI/DUI charges, even if you think your situation doesn’t warrant them, you should know what the law says and how it’s been interpreted by state courts. An experienced attorney can provide important information and guidance.