A Warning to All Passengers
The Bruce Law Firm is currently working on a case where our client, allegedly, briefly grabbed the steering wheel of a moving vehicle while sitting in the passenger seat. Later found over the .08 level of alcohol in his blood, the prosecution charged this passenger with DUI.
Per California law, a person is guilty of DUI when they 1) drive and 2) do so while impaired and/or are over the .08 limit of alcohol in their blood. In this case, the element of driving is at issue. According to the courts, a person drives when they engage in “volitional movement” of a vehicle. This includes “steering and controlling a vehicle while in motion.” While some states require “actual physical control,” i.e. “directing influence, domination or regulation of any vehicle,” California does not. In fact, the California Court of Appeal found that steering an automobile is enough to be charged with driving under the influence.
So, when your designated driver decides to make a stop on the way home you disagree with don’t grab the wheel. You may regret it big time.
For an excellent rendition of the law of the “driving” element in California compared to other states nationwide see Scott, Kimberly F., “’Driving’ Under the Influence in California: Mercer v. Department of Motor Vehicles,” California Western Law Review, vol. 28, issue 1, article 10 (1991).