Determinations of whether an individual is guilty of driving under the influence usually hinge upon intoxication levels. In some cases, whether an individual was driving will also be a concern. As technology improves, self-driving vehicles will become more common on public roads. Self-driving vehicles present unusual concerns regarding driving under the influence.
Driving Under The Influence
Laws prohibiting driving under the influence vary from state to state. Most state laws use the words “drive” or “operate” as the prohibited act. Thus, in most states, the driver must be operating the vehicle. What constitutes driving can vary between jurisdictions; what is permissible in one state may not be permissible in another.
Disputes over whether the defendant was driving will usually center on control over the vehicle. If the vehicle is truly self-driving and if the occupant has no control over its movements, then a prosecutor will likely be unable to prove that an intoxicated individual was driving the vehicle. However, if an intoxicated individual via a remote or other unconventional means controls the vehicle, then the intoxicated individual is probably still driving the vehicle.
If the vehicle is normally self-driving but permits users to override the vehicle’s decisions, courts may view the act as similar to sitting in a parked car while intoxicated. According to our attorneys at www.powmac.com, it is possible to get convicted of driving under the influence if one is behind the wheel of a parked car while intoxicated.
In this case, the courts will consider factors such as the location of the keys, whether the parking brake was activated, the presence of others in the vehicle, and any other relevant factors to determine whether the individual was driving the vehicle. If the vehicle was running and the driver only had to turn the wheel or operate the pedals to drive the vehicle, then a court would likely find that the driver had physical control over the vehicle, and thus, laws prohibiting driving under the influence would be in effect.
Due to the rarity of self-driving vehicles at present, what constitutes driving or operating a motor vehicle under the influence is not yet determined. In the interim, individuals interested in consuming alcohol in a vehicle should ensure that they have no control over the vehicle. Since this virtually eliminates the occupant’s ability to control the vehicle if necessary, the best response is to avoid drinking in a self-driving vehicle at all.
Driving under the influence may be subject to disputes over what constitutes driving, but other statutes have no such requirements. Some states prohibit any alcohol in the passenger compartment of a vehicle regardless of whether the vehicle is in motion. Occupants can violate laws prohibiting open containers of alcohol by simply possessing alcohol in a vehicle. Laws prohibiting public intoxication are yet another concern.
Self-driving vehicles are rare and expensive; no one currently entrusted with a self-driving vehicle probably will be intoxicated while doing anything with the vehicle. As self-driving vehicles become more common, what constitutes driving or operation of a motor vehicle will need to be clarified.
Chris Bennett is an automotive enthusiast and legal researcher for the attorneys at www.powmac.com. A DUI charge is a serious issue and conviction will have a dramatic effect on your life. The North Carolina law firm of Powers McCartan is a partnership of professional associations dedicated to staying on the forefront of legal representation.
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/donotlick/5227173612/