Abortion

Connecticut's Highest Court Invents a New Offense

|

It's called, "Sitting in an idling, parked car while intoxicated."

Unfortunately, it carries the same penalties as actually driving a car while intoxicated.

The guy in this case had prior DUI convictions, so perhaps he's not all that sympathetic. But there are certainly innocuous reasons why after the bars close in Connecticut in February, an intoxicated person might want to wait for a taxi or sober ride in a warm, idling car.

NEXT: Rent-a-Meter-Maid

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. About 45 min. until John returns. Everybody get ready.

  2. Without reading the arcticle . .

    Here in the great plains, a chump got drunk and decided not to drive home. But it was cold, so he started the car then climbed into the back seat to sleep it off. Some time later, the police arrested him for OUI. It was upheld in court, because the keys were in the ignition so he was “operating” the vehicle.

  3. It has been illegal since at least the mid-80s in both Kentucky and Indiana to sit in a parked and running car while intoxicated. I even know one guy popped for a DUI because he was drunk and rummaging on the floorboard for a cassette tape and the key was in the ignition so the radio would come on. He fought it like cats and dogs, but it stuck.

  4. Umm, no comment as to the rightness or wrongness of it but in Florida the car does not even have to be idling. Being alone in a car, in possession of the keys is enough.

  5. In Kentucky, people have had DUI convictions for riding lawnmowers, bicycles, and riding a horse on their own property. My question is… how can someone in a wheelchair ever get legally drunk? I asked my traffic school instructor (I got popped for going the wrong way on a deserted one-way street) and he just shot me a pissy look.

  6. I would rather live in Gaza than Kentucky,

  7. It’s called, “Sitting in an idling, parked car while intoxicated.”

    This isn’t new.

    When I was young pup in school going through Driver’s Ed. we were taught that you can get hit with a DUI if you are drunk in a parked car with the key in the ignition.

  8. It should at least be a lesser offense, like attempted drunk driving or something. Otherwise, why not go for the home run if you’ve been drinking? Moral issues aside, of course.

  9. Drunk driving is a victimless crime.

    It shouldn’t be a crime until you commit an action which is a danger to others.

    I don’t drink and drive, but I’m sure I am better driver at .10 than this dumb broad sober:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uLECuGK07U&feature=channel_page

  10. Indiana hasn’t fired rockets at us in years.

  11. In Kentucky, people have had DUI convictions for riding lawnmowers, bicycles, and riding a horse on their own property.

    That’s pretty fucked up.

    Again back in Driver’s Ed. we were told that on private property we don’t even need a license to drive. A 10 year old could go up and down their driveway if they wanted to as long as they didn’t make it to the street.

  12. How about leaning on a idled car while intoxicated?

    Looking at an idled car while intoxicated?

    Jangling your keys while intoxicated in front of an idled car?

  13. “TofuSushi | March 25, 2009, 2:26pm | #

    I would rather live in Gaza than Kentucky,”

    Daytime drinking again SIV? I thought your employer frowned on that, even if she is your mother…

  14. I am not and never have been SIV, I am TofuSushi.

    Additionally, I am losing my admiration for you.

  15. Indiana hasn’t fired rockets at us in years.

    What about Jews nearby in general?

  16. “Additionally, I am losing my admiration for you.”

    Alas, I cry “noone you know.”

  17. Same kinda scene recently played out here in Minnesota. There’s a gulf of difference between “the law” and “justice” these days. And it is getting worse.

  18. SugarFree,

    Never mind. I looked it up. I am taking MNG’s advice and changing my vote to Kentucky.

  19. Otherwise, why not go for the home run if you’ve been drinking?

    This is the truly baffling thing about this sort of nonsense. If we are truly interested in reducing the danger inherent in drinking, why wouldn’t we do everything to encourage people to not actually drive?

    If somebody wants to ride his bicycle (or his horse) home drunk, we should encourage that.

  20. How can anyone justify charging someone with a DUI when they are not even in the driver’s seat? Even if in the driver seat, they still have yet to commit a crime if the car is not in gear. But in the passenger seat or the back seat? Even without the keys in the ignition? What if I’m drunk and my sober driver runs into the store while leaving the car running to keep warm. Am I a drunk driver?

  21. should be:

    “inherent in drinking and driving”

  22. 15 min. until John

  23. In Minnesota, the car doesn’t even have to be running. All that’s required is that the key be in the ignition.

  24. In Soviet Russia the Influence drives under YOU!

  25. “I would rather live in Gaza than Kentucky”

    We too, would rather you live in Gaza.

  26. CS,

    You are so 25 min. ago.

  27. This is terrible. Presumably the parking lot is private property. If I want to do drunken donuts on private property (and I have permission from the owner) how the fuck is that anyone’s business. And this guy wasn’t even driving. What next, are they going to start pulling people on racetracks over for speeding?

  28. When I lived in England, you could be charged with a DUI on the police officer’s suspicion that you planned to drive a car and had a BA content above the legal limit. Even if you were simply opening the passenger-side door to retrieve something from your car, while it was parked in front of your house at night with the engine off and you had no actual intention of driving anywhere.

  29. In Minnesota, the car doesn’t even have to be running. All that’s required is that the key be in the ignition.

    That’s also the law here in Alabama.

    Clearly, these states would rather people freeze to death in winter than at least be allowed to crank their cars and turn on the heat.

  30. “If we are truly interested in reducing the danger inherent in drinking, why wouldn’t we do everything to encourage people to not actually drive?”

    That would make sense, wouldn’t it. People even get hassled walking home from the bar sometimes. Shouldn’t the police be fucking ecstatic to see a drunk who is responsible enough to walk home?

    So, one can only conclude that the people responsible for these laws are just mean and vindictive and think drinkers are nasty people and if they want to drink they can stay at home with all the doors locked and blinds drawn so no children can see their nasty vicious behavior.

  31. Drunk driving is a victimless crime.

    It shouldn’t be a crime until you commit an action which is a danger to others.

    Driving drunk is reckless endangerment and rightly a crime. Like all things, the government will often go overboard. It’s closing time, you’re too drunk to drive and it’s cold. You starting the car for heat and sleeping it off in the parking lot endangers nobody.

  32. P Brooks,

    If we are truly interested in reducing the danger inherent in drinking, why wouldn’t we do everything to encourage people to not actually drive?

    When I was in college the incentives to drive drunk were incredibly perverse. The downtown drinking district is about 1-2 miles from where most students live. The cops handed out dozens of Public Intoxication tickets for those trying to walk home. The public buses wouldn’t let you on if you smelled of booze (unless you’re a gibbering homeless person, of course.) There was a cab company monopoly supported by the city, and cabs were not only super-expensive, but had few controls on pricing the ride at whatever the hell they felt like. So, you can’t drive, walk, take the bus, or not get ripped off by a cab.

    And Lexington can’t understand why downtown is a scene from The Omega Man. Dumbasses.

  33. SugarFree,

    Right on with cab regulation brother!

  34. Kentucky woman.
    If she get to know you,
    She goin’ to own you.
    Kentucky woman.

  35. My aunt was a juror in California on a case like this. The guy was drunk with the keys in the ignition. The car was on and he was to drunk to drive.

    He had two previous hung juries and since my aunt was on the case there was a third.

  36. I have the best example of how awesome laws like this are.

    At a house party, the summer after senior year of high school, my buddy gets a call from a particularly trashy girl that he was quite fond of. He wanted to go pick her up, but I was having a good time and didn’t want to leave. He was determined to meet his booty call so off he goes. I remember saying something like “don’t get fucked”.

    Apparently he picks the chick up and goes to a former cornfield now suburban development and parks the car. As he is enjoying the high school ritual of getting laid in the back seat of his car he hears a rap on the glass and looks up right into a flashlight. DUI, no pants, awesome.

    Apparently some burbia-dweller called about a “suspicious vehicle” suspecting that it was a drug dealer. The police report was saved for posteriety. My buddy was damn lucky he wasn’t 18 yet, or that report would follow him around for quite some time. Well, for better of for worse.

  37. This has been the law in Massachusetts since 1928 (Commonwealth v. Uski).

  38. I knew a guy that this happened to and the crazy-ass prosecutor (I don’t know what you call them in these cases, i’m not a lawyer) pushed for the MAXIMUM sentence. She said it was necessary to discourage this kind of reckless behavior and send the right message. His pleas of “but I didn’t even DO anything!” were never heard.

  39. Driving drunk is reckless endangerment and rightly a crime.

    No, it isn’t. If you are obeying the laws of the road and can execute and perform the necessary functions of driving, it shouldn’t matter what your BAC is. If you swerve into oncoming traffic, hit somebody, or otherwise violate a law, you should be fined or prosecuted for violating that law. I don’t care if the person is high, drunk, retarded, stupid, old, handicapped, or Obama.

    Some people drive better at .10 BAC than other people do sober. I’m even willing to bet that I drive better at .10 BAC than 90% of 80 year olds do sober.

  40. So let’s talk new law.

    Only allow arrest for DUI of a vehicle that is parked if:
    -The person is in the driver’s seat
    -Keys are in the ignition
    -Vehicle is started
    -Driver has neither of his feet on the pavement (stops them from arresting someone for sitting sideways in the driver’s seat

    Add additional clause that allows arrest of
    -A person seated in any position that manipulates the gear shift, parking brake, brake pedal, accelerator, or other control(s) in a way that causes the vehicle to move.

    Perhaps exempt only vehicles be parked on private property with no witnesses that claim the driver drove the vehicle while intoxicated to the position it’s currently parked in.

    May have to create a presumption that a person in a vehicle that is stopped on a public road or public area not designated as a parking space immediately adjacent to a public road (shoulder, etc) and is the only person in or around the vehicle is the actual driver of the vehicle and can be cited for DUI.

    Thoughts, comments?

  41. If you find yourself in the situation of needing to sit in an idling car while intoxicated, you’re probably better off sitting in the passenger seat. You will probably have a slighly better chance of convincing a cop and/or judge that you had no intention of driving.

  42. innocuous reasons why after the bars close in Connecticut in February, an intoxicated person might want to wait for a taxi or sober ride in a warm, idling car.

    I’ve done it.

  43. Brendan Perez –
    I would agree with that only if you also think that we should arrest people who have a gun with murder, and a person with a hard on in a public setting for rape.

  44. The title of the relevant law, CGS ?? 14-227a, is “Operation while under the influence of liquor or drug or while having an elevated blood alcohol content.”

    I think most people would find that the term “operation” of a motor vehicle would include being in the driver’s seat with the car running.

    I mean, if you caught stranger sitting in your car with the engine idling, and the police refused to do anything about it because it’s not grand theft auto until he starts driving, you’d be pissed, right?

  45. What is the DUI penalty in Gaza? I might change my mind again.

  46. I thought we had some pretty clear lines in this country between the concepts of thinking about doing something illegal, attempting to do something illegal, and doing something illegal.

  47. I mean why not just, as a police officer, stay put until the guy puts the car in gear and starts to move, and then move in?

  48. Brendan, if the car ain’t moving, you ain’t driving it, and can’t be “driving under the influence.”

    Its called a “moving violation” for a reason.

  49. SugerFree:

    What the fuck do you mean you don’t understand how a person in a wheelchair can get legally drunk? I’d imagine they’d like to get drunk more often than normal.

    Were you talking about like a drunk rolling violation? That would be brutally funny.

    On a personal note: I am the best drunk driver in the history of man. Not piss-blind impaired because I almost never go down that path. Driving stoned and well above .08 has taught me how to drive. Hell, I learned to smoke weed while driving (it was a bong, making it even funnier/stupider). I now am the most patient driver ever—the threat of getting DUI’d or having a bowl stolen is a huge incentive to respect the road.

  50. Why not take it one step further and just arrest anybody in a bar who has car keys on them? Even if their car was left at home, maybe they will drive somewhere after getting a ride there. If you weren’t planning on driving, why didn’t you leave the car keys at home?

    I really don’t this logic any worse than some of the examples cited above.

  51. I meant:

    I really don’t think this logic is any worse than some of the examples cited above.

  52. I really don’t this logic any worse than some of the examples cited above.

    OOh OOh! What if we just arrest anyone who gets out of a car and goes into an establishment that serves alcohol. You’re 100% of the time going into these establishments to drink, after all, and then we can assume that you’re going to drive home.

  53. “””Driving drunk is reckless endangerment and rightly a crime.”””

    Assuming they are actually drunk, and actually driving. Drunk driving charges these days have less to do with endangerment. It’s becoming an anti-drinking tool meant to harrass drunks regardless of the ability to endanger others.

  54. This has been a actionable offense in Connecticut for at least 25 years.

  55. It’s becoming an anti-drinking a revenue enhancement tool meant to harrass drunks regardless of the ability to endanger others.

    And all that revenue is just a serendipitous coincidence.

  56. Drat! I forgot to edit my edit of the original quoted comment. Should have been:

    It’s becoming an anti-drinking tool meant to harrass drunks regardless of the ability to endanger others.

    And all that revenue is just a serendipitous coincidence.

  57. All men are rapists, you know…

  58. I’d argue that in the state of Washington, public “servants” and supreme court justices should be considered guilty of DUI the instant they get in their vehicle, until proven otherwise.

  59. ev,

    Were you talking about like a drunk rolling violation? That would be brutally funny.

    This. If a bicycle, a lawnmower, and horse are considered vehicles for the purposes of DUI, how can a wheelchair not be? If so, then how can a person in a wheelchair get drunk without being guilty of DUI?

  60. “””I thought we had some pretty clear lines in this country between the concepts of thinking about doing something illegal, attempting to do something illegal, and doing something illegal.”””

    We did away with the philosophy years ago. Get with the new America already! If you can’t prosecute people for thinking about illegal activities you won’t win against the terrorist.

    Kidding aside. Those lines are being played with. Intelligence about what people are thinking about doing, and preventing those actions is all the rage in post 9/11 America. Law enforcement likes the idea of preventing crimes via data mining.

  61. How many Nobody or Trinity movies need one watch to know a horse is a drunk man’s best mode of transportation.

  62. Far be it from me to agree with the law on this point, but sitting behind the wheel while intoxicated in an idling motor vehicle even on private property has probably been sufficient grounds to support at least a charge and possibly a conviction of a DWI in most states for decades. The Virginia Code, for example, begins “It shall be unlawful for any person to drive or operate any motor vehicle…” No mention of being on a public road. No mention of the car moving. If you’re drunk behind the wheel of a car with the engine running or maybe even with the motor off and the engine still hot, you’re at risk of being cited.

    Should that be the law? Not in my opinion. But it’s nothing new, either.

  63. Brendan, if the car ain’t moving, you ain’t driving it, and can’t be “driving under the influence.”

    Its called a “moving violation” for a reason.

    Did the assault weapon ban have anything to do with assault weapons? This is government. No logic or understanding of language is necessary. They can arbitrarily redefine words to make any action legal or illegal on the well established “it’s good to be the king” legal principle.

  64. Is it reasonable to expect those who imbibe a substance that impairs decision-making faculties to then make the right decision and not drive, particularly those who may black out, despite their best efforts?

    Would it not make more sense to exploit technologies that eliminate the possibility of turning on the ignition with products such as a breathalyser or steering wheel sensors capable of detecting blood-alcohol level?

    Legislating morality on drinkers makes as much sense as keeping drugs illegal. Imagine all of the current problems that would simply vanish if the government kept it’s big nose out of our personal lives?

    Trust me when I say, the people who want to use drugs are already using them. There won’t be some tidal flood of junkies, much to the chagrin of nay-sayers.

  65. Mine was an attempt at compromise-heavily weighted towards innocent people trying to sleep it off.

    Chances are they would say that a person in the driver seat of a running car, door closed, feet inside and drunk was basically in control of the vehicle and that driving and in full control are analogous to a person waving a gun around. He’s not shooting anyone, but is a significant threat nonetheless.

    We could do away with DUI by simply punishing the actual illegal driving-weaving, failing to stop/obey traffic control, etc. But that has even less chance of flying then my idea does.

  66. Count me in with those who are amazed this was posted as if it were news. I’ve known people who got DUIs for sitting drunk in a car in six different states going back 30 years. Didn’t matter if the car was even running — all that mattered was the person was drunk, in the car, and in possession of the keys.

    Only ever saw one person escape the DUI charge. A couple of years ago we found one of our troops passed out in his locked vehicle in the dorm parking lot. He was breathing but unresponsive so we called Security and when they responded they busted out a window to gain access. He turned out to be nearly comatose-drunk and spent the day in the ER. Because the keys were in the truck the authorities wanted to charge him with DUI. Jurisdiction varies on military installations but in this case the state deferred to the military. It turns out the guy had a history of calling his girfriend in Hawaii late at night and didn’t want to wake his roommate so he went to his truck where he could have some privacy and turn on the heat. Only difference was this night someone gave him lots of alcohol & gatorade (yuk) beforehand and because he had never drank before, he overconsumed and passed out. My CO wrote a letter to the magistrate explaining that we had full confidence that he had not driven nor had any intent to drive and they dismissed everything. We handled the underage drinking violation separately.

    Dumb, dumb law and it only exists because of the pro-prohibition zealots who took over MADD. Even Candy Lightner has distanced herself from them.

  67. If somebody wants to ride his bicycle (or his horse) home drunk, we should encourage that.

    Those actions are also unreasonably dangerous and negligent.

  68. Even Candy Lightner has distanced herself from them.

    Any cite for this? (I know whom Candy Lightner is.)

  69. I didn’t know this was news. In Texas, that’s been the law for years, I believe. The point being, I suppose(and I can’t believe I’m going to defend a law), that the person might be about to begin driving when caught be law enforcement. The only way to be sure is to have the engine off and the keys out of the ignition. I’ve been a bartender for about a decade, and many many times I’ve told drunks to turn off the engine, pocket the keys, and get into the passenger seat, in case the police happen to cruise through the parking lot.

  70. The point being, I suppose(and I can’t believe I’m going to defend a law), that the person might be about to begin driving when caught be law enforcement.

    There are these things called reverse lights that light up when the car is put into reverse.

    If the car is put into reverse, that is evidence of driving and thus is the person behind the wheel is drunk…

  71. I think most people would find that the term “operation” of a motor vehicle would include being in the driver’s seat with the car running.

    As far as I am concerned, until the car is on the public way, NOTHING is “operating”, up to and including doing donuts or swinging the fucking car from a crane.

    The government has the authority to regulate the use of motor vehicles on the public way and nowhere else. Period. Any state that has taken upon itself the right to regulate any aspect of motor vehicle operation off the public way has stepped beyond its bounds.

    That simple – very simple – rule of thumb would basically immediately eliminate from consideration people in wheelchairs at home, people mowing their lawn, riding a horse, etc. As well as the guy sleeping it off in the parking lot of the bar.

  72. In Minnesota, the car doesn’t even have to be running. All that’s required is that the key be in the ignition.

    A guy I know there went down for sleeping one off with the ignition key in the trunk. He put it there thinking what you said. Not so. Not for someone relying on a public defender, at least.

    If you’re too drunk to drive, drive fast.

  73. A guy I know there went down for sleeping one off with the ignition key in the trunk.

    What was his name?

  74. Nothing new — in Iowa sitting drunk in an idling car has been deemed “drunk driving” by the courts. In fact, even having the keys in the ignition, but the car engine off, while drunk gets you a drunk driving charge here.

    1. In North Dakota its a separate but essentially equivalent charge called APC, actual physical control.

  75. re: Michael Ejercito @ March 25, 8:26pm

    In an undated article on-line, the author writes: “Ms. Lightner left MADD and is concerned that the organization that she herself created is changing its focus. “It has become far more neo-prohibitionist than I ever wanted or envisioned,” she says. “I didn’t start MADD to deal with alcohol. I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving.”

    It’s referenced but I didn’t check that out.

    Here’s the link: http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/controversies/1119636699.html

  76. In fact, even having the keys in the ignition, but the car engine off, while drunk gets you a drunk driving charge here.

    Because people sitting in their cars while drunk poses a menace to society.

  77. That last comment got left to early.

    What I was going to say was that I wrote about this issue and what the rule would be in a similar situation under New York State law here:

    http://schlissellaw.wordpress.com/2009/04/02/driving-while-intoxicated-dwi-when-youre-not-actually-driving/

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.