A police officer hitting you with a DUI charge because you were in or near a non-operation vehicle can come as an extreme surprise. You'll likely want to contact a DUI lawyer and ask them what's going on. It's important to understand how a non-operational vehicle defense works before presenting one.

Is the Vehicle Operational?

Generally, if a vehicle could soon go on a public roadway under its own power, the law considers it operational. For example, a car without the key in it is normally considered an operational vehicle. The reasoning is the driver could insert the key and get going very quickly. Consequently, the presence of the vehicle's key on your person usually makes the vehicle operational for legal purposes. This is why someone who has been drinking at the bar should give their keys to a sober friend.

What If You Were Repairing the Vehicle?

It's fairly common for backyard mechanics to have several beers while working on a car. The police may have their interpretation of whether the car is operational in that condition. Especially if the car is in a driveway adjacent to a street, the cops are not going to be happy about that.

You may have a defense if you can prove the vehicle was far from an operational condition. If you had pulled the motor or transmission out without yet replacing it, for example, a DUI attorney can usually present a reasonable defense.

The closer the car is to functionality, though, the harder this defense becomes. If you were just replacing the plugs and wires, for example, it's easy for the cop to say you could have had the car on the road before you sobered up.

Is the Alleged Vehicle Really a Vehicle?

This defense varies significantly by state. Some states consider virtually anything that could transport a person on the road to be a vehicle. In these states, wagons, horse-drawn buggies, off-road ATVs, and bicycles may count. A few states will even charge folks on horseback with DUIs. Other states focus on motor vehicles. If you wish to argue you weren't in or near a legally recognized vehicle, it's best to consult a DUI lawyer about your state's rules.

Were You in a Public Setting?

A final defense may be that you weren't in public. If you were in a garage and had the door closed, you may have a defense. This gets a little trickier if the garage door was open, especially if you were moving the vehicle in or out of the space.

Contact a local DUI lawyer to learn more about this type of defense.