The laws regarding drivers who operate a car drunk or drugged are well-known – if you drive under the influence, you risk a DUI charge. As a general rule, if you were on the passenger side of the car, you can’t be convicted for DUI since you didn’t actually drive. However, there may be circumstances when a person sitting on the passenger side is charged with a DUI.

It’s essential to keep in mind that a DUI conviction is different than a DUI charge. When a person is charged with a crime, including DUI, it only means that the police suspects that the person was the driver. However, a DUI conviction requires much more than suspicion. It requires proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the person was driving the car, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and substantially incapacitated.

Some situations that might lead a police officer to charge a passenger for DUI include:

  • Suppose that the police were called to the scene of an accident. The two cars haven’t been moved from the street, but the cars are empty. All the people involved are sitting outside the vehicles. In such a scenario, the police must investigate who the driver was, especially if one of the drivers is too drunk to respond or denies driving. Uncertainty may also arise if a person is sleeping on the passenger side and the car is idle.
  • Driving from the passenger seat. Suppose you were sitting on the passenger side, either intoxicated with alcohol or under the influence of drugs. You reach over to grab the wheel, either to steady the car or to assist in turning, causing an accident. In that case, you could be charged with a DUI.
  • Switching seats. If you were actually the driver but switched seats to the passenger side to sober up will raise red flags with the police.

Prosecutor Must Prove DUI Elements For a Conviction

While some situations could lead to a DUI charge, the circumstances are incredibly tenuous. Plus, the prosecutor must prove certain factors for a DUI conviction to stick. A court will look to all evidence presented in a case to determine whether a person intended to set the vehicle in motion while under the influence.

The police will investigate the scene and look for factors that show drunk or drugged driving. If the person got into an accident and was the only person at the scene, it may indicate that the person was the driver. Other factors include the smell of alcohol and/or drugs on the person’s breath or in the car. Empty alcohol containers or drug paraphernalia inside the vehicle may also be indicators.

Call Us for Help

We understand the severity and anxiety of being charged with violating Colorado’s DUI laws. Our experienced attorneys at the Moorhead Law Group have defended many people accused of DUI. We will thoroughly review the specifics of your case. If you have been arrested for DUI or another criminal matter, contact our office at 303-586-6912 or online.