Can I get an OWI while in a parking lot? 6 Answers as of May 16, 2011

I was recently arrested for OWI while sitting in a parking lot trying to keep warm. Had no intentions of driving only trying to get a hold of a ride or reach another acceptable solution to my predicament. Not so much a question of how the law reads and how I am guilty but more. How is it punishable to the extent of someone actually driving. It feels kinda like being convicted of stabbing someone when all I did is pick up the kitchen knife to cut a sandwich!

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Thomas J. Tomko Attorney At law
Thomas J. Tomko Attorney At law | Thomas J. Tomko
The answer to your question is it depends. Should you have the present ability to drive the vehicle, then you could be arrested even though parked in a parking lot. In Michigan there is case law to support that a person who is in the driver seat, with the car running, is in a position to operate the vehicle and can get an OWI ticket, even though the vehicle is not moved when observed by the police. The intent behind the law is to prevent the event of drinking and driving and it turns on the question of whether or not the person was "operating" the vehicle. A conviction could be prevented or supported by what is said at the scene of the accident. If you admit to drinking at a bar miles away from where you were parked some time before the police arrived, this would support that you drank, then drove, then parked the car to get warm. On the other hand, an explanation could be that you did not want to drive, because, realizing that you had drank some alcohol, you did not want to drink and drive. These are all jury questions that would have to be decided at trial. I hope that this was helpful. Should you need assistance in this matter, you may contact my office to arrange an appointment to discuss my representing you.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 5/16/2011
Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law
Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law | Jules Fiani
Yes you can be arrested for OWI in a parking lot. If while you are in the vehicle and you had possession of the keys and control of the vehicle or the keys were in the ignition and the car was running (in order to keep you warm), you certainly can be arrested for the OWI. However, if the keys were in your pocket or on the floor of the vehicle and you were in the backseat sleeping, the likelihood would be that you would not be arrested for OWI. You need to hire an experienced attorney such as myself to handle this case....visit my website for more information.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 5/16/2011
Craig W. Elhart, P.C.
Craig W. Elhart, P.C. | Craig Elhart
As you may be aware, the law reads that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence. This includes any area where a motor vehicle could be operated including a parking lot. The issue will become did you have control of the vehicle. What did the officer observe and why did he/she approach you in the first place. Without knowing these facts, it is difficult to give advise as to any possible defenses.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 5/16/2011
Nichols Law Firm
Nichols Law Firm | Michael J. Nichols
It depends on what state you are in - in Michigan the parking lot must be generally accessible to motor vehicles.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 5/16/2011
Klisz Law Office, PLLC
Klisz Law Office, PLLC | Timothy J. Klisz
That's what the law says. It's very clear. These cases have been moving in that direction for years. Try your case and see what happens.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 5/13/2011
    Austin Legal Services, PLC
    Austin Legal Services, PLC | Jared Austin
    It will depend on the facts. Was this a public or private parking lot? Were you sitting in the driver's side of the car? Was the car running? Were the keys in the ignition? Ideally, they will have to have some kind of proof that you were actually operating a motor vehicle on a public road while under the influence of alcohol. If all they have is you sitting in a parking lot with no other evidence to bolster their case, i.e. someone saw you driving the car, then they may have a very hard time as they would have to rely on the notion of a logical assumption. In any event, you need to retain an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible. Only a trained eye can properly evaluate the police report and lab results for errors that could get the charges reduced or dismissed. Too much is at stake to do it alone.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 5/13/2011
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