Can You Get a DWI in a Parked Car? In Texas, Yes.

person sitting in a car

Can you get a DWI in a parked car? In Texas, yes. Now, you may have heard some horror stories about people that have been arrested here in Texas for DWI, driving while intoxicated, while they were simply sitting in a parked car. I know those stories go around. And so the question that I get from time to time is, are they true? Can you get arrested for driving while intoxicated when you’re not actually driving? Well, the short answer is yes. So if you want to know why, stick around and we’ll talk about it in this week’s video. Happy Friday, everybody. I hope you’re all having a great week and gearing up for a fun and safe weekend. So like I said, in this video, we are talking about DWIs here in Texas and a very specific aspect of DWIs.

So in order to get charged with driving while intoxicated into eventually be convicted of driving while intoxicated, the state of Texas has to prove four essential elements. There are four things that they have to prove in order to charge and/or convict you of driving while intoxicated. The first is that you operated. The second is a motor vehicle. The third is in a public place. The fourth is while intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol. So those are the four things that this state has to prove. They have to prove that they operated a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated. If they can’t prove one of those things, they can’t charge you with driving while intoxicated.

So what this video is focusing on is that first element, that operating, operated a motor vehicle. So what does that mean? Most people when they think of driving while intoxicated, they think of the layman’s definition, what you and I mean when we say we’re driving somewhere, that we’re driving. The car is moving. We have our hands on the steering wheel, our foot on the pedals, and we are driving forward or backward. That’s what we mean when we say that we are driving a car. However, the law, as it exists in the state of Texas, doesn’t require that amount. It actually only requires that the person is influencing the operation of the motor vehicle in some way, right? And really, what that means is anything that you are doing that exerts control over that car and makes it or renders it operable is enough for them to get to the operation part.

Now, where we see this come in a lot is somebody leaves the bar, they realize they’ve had a few too many to drink. And so they go and they sit in their car while they’re waiting for a ride or they’re waiting to sober up or whatever. And while they’re sitting there, they turn their car on and they have the AC on or the heater on or the radio on. But they have the keys in the ignition, the car is on. Well, technically, that is enough for the state to prove that you were operating that motor vehicle. And we’ve had cases where we’ve represented clients who have just been sitting in their parked car with it running while they were waiting on a ride to pick them up. Now, is that right? No. Is that justified? No, but it’s what the law allows. And so I want you all to be aware of that.

So when you’re in a situation where you’re leaving a bar or leaving somewhere where you’re having somewhere to drink, and you know you shouldn’t drive, but you’re going to sit in your car and wait, you need to find a better place. Either wait back inside the bar, wait inside a buddy’s car, wait on a bench, or anywhere else that’s not sitting inside a vehicle that is turned on. Because then, if an officer pulls up, you can actually get charged with driving while intoxicated. Now the easiest way to avoid this is always, and I’ve said this in video after video, after video, is simply to get a ride home, get an Uber, get a Lyft, and get a friend to pick you up. Because these rideshare programs are so easily accessed, they’re so ubiquitous, they’re everywhere now that it really doesn’t make any sense to put yourself in that type of risky situation.

As I said, the purpose of this video is to explain to you that that is a risky situation. Even though you think, “Hey, I’m doing the right thing. I’m getting a ride. And so I’m just going to wait in my car until it gets here,” that’s actually putting yourself at risk because you can and will get charged with driving while intoxicated if you do that. So as always, if you have any questions about this or any of my other videos or any topic in general, feel free to give me a call, send me an email, or swing by my Thursday streams and ask away. I’m happy to answer anything that I can. But until then, I hope you all have an awesome weekend, a great week next week. And I look forward to seeing you next Friday. Take it easy.


Author Bio

James P. Whalen

James P. Whalen is the managing attorney and founder of Whalen Law Office, a Texas criminal defense firm offering personalized legal representation for various federal criminal charges. With a commitment to providing comfort and guidance during challenging times, Mr. Whalen serves as both an attorney and counselor to his clients, helping them navigate their cases while striving to restore normalcy to their lives.

In an inherently unbalanced criminal justice system, Mr. Whalen takes on cases with unwavering dedication. With decades of legal experience, he offers representation across various criminal charges, including white-collar crimes, violent crimes, drug charges, and more. Mr. Whalen’s numerous accolades, including Super Lawyer recognition and board certification in Criminal Appellate Law and Criminal Law, reflect his unwavering commitment to ethical and high-quality legal representation.

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