The Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle code prohibits drivers from operating, driving, or exercising physical control over a car if they have consumed an amount of alcohol that renders them incapable of doing so safely. Many people assume that if you do not drive a car while intoxicated you cannot be charged with or convicted of a DUI. This is not true, however, as illustrated in Commonwealth v. Winowitch, a recent case in which the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed a DUI conviction where the defendant was not actually driving at the time of his arrest. The court here found that the circumstantial evidence was sufficient to indicate he was exercising control over his car. If you were charged with a DUI, it is in your best interest to retain an experienced Pennsylvania DUI attorney to help you formulate a strong defense to the charges against you.
Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest
Allegedly, the arresting officer observed the defendant slumped over asleep in the driver’s seat of his car in a parking lot. The car’s dashboard lights were on and the keys were in the ignition and turned to on, but the engine was off and the car was in park. The officer knocked on the car window until the defendant awoke. The officer then reached across the car to remove the keys from the ignition when the defendant removed the key and tossed it onto the passenger seat. The defendant then denied that that key was in the ignition. The defendant submitted to a field sobriety test, which he failed. He was charged with a DUI and other offenses.
At trial, the defendant stipulated that two hours prior to when the officer approached him, he made a cash withdrawal from an ATM within a bar that was nearby his parked car. The defendant’s counsel argued that because his car was not on when the officer approached him, the defendant was not exercising physical control over the movement of the car and therefore could not be convicted of DUI. The court rejected this argument, and the defendant was convicted of DUI and the other charges against him. He subsequently appealed. On appeal, his conviction was affirmed.