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A Note of Caution to All Passengers

Bergstrom and Bruce is currently working on a case where our client, allegedly, briefly grabbed the steering wheel of a moving vehicle while sitting in the passenger seat. Later found over the .08 level of alcohol in his blood, the prosecution charged this passenger with DUI.

Per California law, a person is guilty of DUI when they 1) drive and 2) do so while impaired and/or are over the .08 limit of alcohol in their blood. In this case, the element of driving is at issue. According to the courts, a person drives when they engage in “volitional movement” of a vehicle.[1]This includes "steering and controlling a vehicle while in motion.”[2] While some states require “actual physical control,” i.e. “directing influence, domination or regulation of any vehicle," California does not.[3] In fact, the California Court of Appeal found that steering an automobile is enough to be charged with driving under the influence.[4]

So, when your designated driver decides to make a stop on the way home you disagree with don’t grab the wheel. You may regret it big time.

[1] Mercer v. Department of Motor Vehicles (1977) 53 Cal.3d 756. [2] People v. Jordan, (1977) 75 Cal.App.3d sup. 2). [3] For an excellent rendition of the law of the “driving” element in California compared to other states nationwide see Scott, Kimberly F., “’Driving’ Under the Influence in California: Mercer v. Department of Motor Vehicles,” California Western Law Review, vol. 28, issue 1, article 10 (1991). [4] In re Queen (1991) 14 Cal.App.4th 1144.

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