Earlier this week, we began a discussion about DUI charges stemming from the legal concept of “actual physical control” (APC). In states with APC laws, authorities can charge someone with DUI if they are drunk and in proximity to their car.
They don’t need to be driving; they simply need to have the capacity to drive. This often leads to suspicious or flimsy convictions, but recently one man was able to beat his DUI charge by proving that his truck wasn’t going anywhere.
At the time of his arrest, his truck had sat broken in a Wal-Mart parking lot for some 12 hours. The arresting officer saw him sitting in the truck, eating a salad and drinking a beer. Under Florida’s APC laws, this was seemingly an arrest-able DUI offense.
The officer failed to collect key evidence that would have solved the incident immediately. He never felt the hood to see if it was warm, nor did he try to start the car. There were no signs that the car had been recently driven or that it could be driven.
Without that evidence, there was no crime. At the trial, the man’s defense attorney said:
“It is not against the law to sit in an inoperable car to eat a salad drunk.” The jury agreed, and it took them only minutes of deliberation before they acquitted the defendant.
Unfortunately, the man’s legal troubles are not yet over. During the original incident, he refused to submit to a breathalyzer test. Just like in Wisconsin, this can result in separate charges, regardless of the outcome of the DUI charge.
However, given the circumstances, his refusal makes sense. When asked to submit to the tests, the man asked the officer: “why are you arresting me for eating eggs?”
We have written that law enforcement will often try a DUI defendant on many other charges as well, hoping at least one will stick. Hopefully, jurors in his next trial will realize that there should be no conviction when there is no crime.
Source: The Herald-Tribune, “With no working vehicle, no DUI conviction,” Todd Ruger, Aug. 7, 2011