There are many strange rules when it comes to when and where a driver can be arrested for drunk driving. In some instances, drivers may be arrested even though the car isn’t in motion, while others may be arrested hours or days after the incident occurred.
One such misconception that often confuses Pennsylvania residents is the idea that you can’t be arrested for drunk driving while in your own driveway. After all, the majority of Pennsylvania traffic laws only apply when a person is driving on a public roadway. So, if you’re drinking in your vehicle at home, there’s no way you’re breaking the law, right?
Quite the opposite. There are many instances in which drinking in your driveway can be viewed in the eyes of the law as drunk driving. In simple terms, any time you’re driving or capable of operating the vehicle—even if it’s in your own driveway—you can be charged with DUI.
Pennsylvania DUI Laws That Apply on Private Property
Pennsylvania’s DUI statute doesn’t mention that the suspect needs to be on a public roadway to be charged with DUI.Pennsylvania Statute § 3802 breaks down their rules and regulations by the following terms:
“An individual may not drive, operate or be in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle after imbibing a sufficient amount of alcohol such that the individual is rendered incapable of safely driving, operating or being in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle.”
Like many other states, Pennsylvania has amended their DUI law to state that an individual must be “in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle” to be charged with a DUI. What does “actual physical control” mean? Generally, this phrasing is interpreted to refer to any instance in which an individual could realistically be capable of driving the vehicle within a moment’s time. In other words, even someone who merely has the keys to their vehicle while sitting inside may be charged with DUI, even on their own private property.
Understanding “Highways” and “Trafficways” as They Apply to Pennsylvania DUI Laws
Most Pennsylvania traffic laws apply when a person is driving on a “highway,” which the state defines as the “entire width between the boundary lines of every [road]way publicly maintained when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel.” In basic terms, a highway is a normal road. Some more serious offenses like passing a school bus illegally or driving under the influence also apply to driving a vehicle on a “trafficway,” which generally means an area in which people operate vehicles that’s open to the public as a matter of right or custom, such as parking garages and parking lots.
This is important because, if an individual were to drink alcohol on private property that’s not considered a highway or trafficway, an experienced Montgomery County DUI defense attorney could establish it wasn’t on a public street or public location like a parking lot. However, if you were to drink in your driveway within the confines of your car and with the keys in your hand, you would be “in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle” and therefore capable, in the eyes of the law, of driving that vehicle onto a public trafficway or highway.
Likewise, if the police saw you pull into your driveway, the fact that you’re in your driveway at the time of the stop isn’t indicative of innocence. In addition, even if the police don’t actually see you operate a moving vehicle on a highway or trafficway, they can make the assumption that you left one location and used the public road to return to your own home. Thus, in any of these instances, you could still face charges and a conviction for DUI in Pennsylvania.
Contact an Experienced DUI Defense Lawyer in Montgomery County
If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence in your own driveway, act quickly and contact an attorney. The Pennsylvania DUI attorneys at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we’re dedicated to fighting for your rights and protecting your interests throughout the legal process. Our highly trusted and well-versed legal team understands the ins and outs of Montgomery County DUI defense law and will be with you every step of the way.
For more than 65 years, Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford has been serving the legal needs of clients in Montgomery County, Bucks County, Lehigh County, Chester County, Delaware County, and throughout the surrounding areas. We’ve earned the trust and respect of clients facing a wide range of legal problems, including DUI defense law. Our attorneys are ready to protect you and guard your rights. Call 215-822-7575 or complete our online contact form today.