What is “Driving”?

To convict someone of DUI, DUI Per Se, or DWI in Maryland, the state must prove that that person was driving a motor vehicle. In many DUI cases, this is extremely straightforward – the police officer observed the defendant driving their vehicle on the roadway, and can testify to that fact at trial. However, there are some cases in which the driver is sitting in a stationary vehicle, either pulled over on the side of the roadway or in a parking space. So, what is driving under Maryland law?

Driving in DUI cases is considered actual physical control of a vehicle.

Atkinson v. State: The Issue of Actual Physical Control

The key question that courts will look at in this situation is, “Was the defendant in actual physical control of a motor vehicle?” The Court of Appeals laid out some of the factors that should be considered in deciding this question in Atkinson v. State, a 1993 case. These factors include:

  1. Whether or not the vehicle’s engine is running, or the ignition on;
  2. Where and in what position the person is found in the vehicle;
  3. Whether the person is awake or asleep;
  4. Where the vehicle’s ignition key is located;
  5. Whether the vehicle’s headlights are on;
  6. Whether the vehicle is located in the roadway or is legally parked.

The court holds that using a vehicle for shelter is not actual physical control. This means that if a person is sleeping in the backseat of a vehicle, parked off of the roadway with the lights off and the keys outside of the ignition, they are not in actual physical control of the vehicle, and thus not driving. Each case is unique. Some factors may be present and others absent. This issue of fact is one that is resolved during trial by the fact-finders (normally a jury except in bench trial cases).

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Our attorneys have experience representing clients against a number of different traffic violations, and their experience will be very beneficial as you work toward fighting the case that has been brought against you. Don’t go into this alone. We are prepared to help you fight your charges and attain the best result available in your case. Please contact us today for more information, and visit the following page to learn more about DUI in Maryland.

Edward Tayter has handled numerous DUI and DWI cases across Maryland. It is this wealth of experience that distinguishes him from other kinds of criminal lawyers. It is important in cases with very specific laws and procedures (like DUI cases), to get a lawyer who is very familiar with DUI law. Moreover, it is important to have a DUI attorney who knows the local law enforcement and prosecution practices. Unlike some other crimes in Maryland, DUIs can be treated very differently from county to county.

To watch Attorney Ed Tayter discuss Maryland DUI laws and the meaning of the term “driving,” click here.