DUI Upheld for Key in Ignition
Tags: Justice Harry L. Carrico, DUI Attorney, Supreme Court of Virginia, Traffic Offenses
In the latest in a series of cases involving an accused found in a drunken condition in a parked vehicle with the keys in the ignition switch, the Supreme Court adds this case to the list of those allowing conviction for DUI under Va. Code § 18.2-266.
Defendant is correct that we have not established a bright-line rule, so we will revisit the proper considerations in determining whether a person is operating a motor vehicle.
The statutory definition of “operator” is controlling and any individual who is in actual physical control of a vehicle is an “operator.” We hold therefore that the dissenting opinion in Stevenson v. City of Falls Church, 243 Va. 434 (1992), was correct, and in discerning whether an intoxicated person seated behind the steering wheel of a motor vehicle on a public roadway with the key inserted into the ignition switch of the vehicle is in actual physical control of the vehicle, the position of the key in the ignition switch is not determinative.
Although operating a motor vehicle may be proven by evidence of manipulation of the mechanical or electrical equipment, it need not be proven in that manner. All that is necessary is evidence that the person is in actual physical control of the vehicle within the meaning of Code § 46.2-10.
We establish the rule that when an intoxicated person is seated behind the steering wheel of a motor vehicle on a public highway and the key is in the ignition switch, he is in actual physical control of the vehicle and therefore is guilty of operating the vehicle while under the influence of alcohol within the meaning of Code § 18.2-266.
The evidence in this case showed beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant was drunk, that he was seated behind the steering wheel of his vehicle on a public street, and that the key was in the ignition switch of the car. We hold that the evidence was sufficient to support a finding that defendant was in actual physical control of the vehicle, and to support his conviction for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol in violation of Code § 18.2-266.
Enriquez v. Commonwealth (Carrico) No. 110818, March 2, 2012; Va.Ct. App. Alberto Salvado for appellant; Gregory W. Franklin, AAG; Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, AG, for appellee. VLW 012-6-025, 8 pp.
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