In March, we wrote about the legal concept of "actual physical control" (APC). In states with APC laws, intoxicated individuals can be arrested for DUI even if they were not driving the car when spotted by a police officer. They merely need to have the capacity to drive, which can include having the car turned on for warmth purposes.
In that previous post, we wrote that a Wisconsin man was convicted for DUI despite the fact that the sole witness to his alleged drunk driving was a police officer who did not see him drive. Juries in other states are often similarly willing to convict despite a lack of evidence.
However, sometimes they get it right. Recently, a Florida man was acquitted of DUI charges stemming from the state's actual-physical-control law. He successfully argued that even though he was drunk and sitting in his truck, the truck was broken down and he had no capacity to drive it.
The incident occurred in February of this year. The 45-year-old man had driven his truck to Wal-Mart earlier in the day. Because of a problem with the starter, the truck would not start again and sat dead in the parking lot for approximately 12 hours. At the trial, the man claimed he left his truck in the lot while he went out drinking with a friend.
He returned to the truck late at night to retrieve some personal items from it. His friend then ditched him in the parking lot. Too drunk to walk home, he decided to make the most of the situation by having something to eat.
When the arresting officer approached the truck, the man was sitting inside the truck eating a salad and drinking a beer. This was all the evidence he felt he needed to make an arrest.
Check back later this week as we continue our discussion. We'll talk about how the officer's lack of evidence led to an acquittal.
Source: The Herald-Tribune, "With no working vehicle, no DUI conviction," Todd Ruger, Aug. 7, 2011