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Can You Get a DUI as a Passenger?

Can You Get a DUI as a Passenger?

If you leave a party or even with friends and the driver is drunk, are you at risk of a DUI? The short answer? Technically yes. However, these cases are more complicated, and a lot of factors play a role in who can be charged with a DUI.

Casino to Custody

A West Virginia DUI case set a precedent for passenger DUI cases. Jason F. Uhl and friends visited a casino in Charleston to celebrate and party. All of the men had their share of alcohol but Uhl, who had driven them there in his truck was a little too drunk to drive.

So, Uhl allowed his friend, Robert Lee Morris to drive them home. To Uhl, Morris seemed the most sober of them all and had no doubts that he would be able to drive the vehicle safely. However, a short few minutes into the drive, the men were pulled over by police going 20 miles over the speed limit. When questioned, the officer smelled alcohol and performed a breathalyzer test which Morris failed along with the field sobriety test.

To make matters worse, the officer found empty beer cans in the car. This provided sufficient evidence to arrest, and the court eventually found Uhl guilty of knowingly allowing a drunk driver to operate his car and the DMV promptly suspended his license.

This case, along with other in South Carolina’s history have made a precedent. If a person allows another person to drive while intoxicated and understands that they could fail a field sobriety test, then they are guilty of assisting with the crime.

Fine Print

However, it is also important to note that while it is possible to get a DUI as a passenger, the fine print makes these cases a little bit more complicated. In the Uhl case, he was convicted along with the driver because he allowed a drunk person to drive a vehicle he owned. Essentially, he helped a drunk driver get on the road which is a public safety concern.

The key point of the case is that Uhl knowingly allowed the situation to happen. If you lend your car to someone and have no idea that they will drive it while intoxicated, you cannot be held responsible for their actions. Similarly, if you are a passenger in a car that neither you nor the driver own but the driver is drunk, you may not be liable for accidents that are a result of drunk driving.

It is also important to understand that in South Carolina, the rule for DUIs with minors is a different story. According to the law, driving drunk with a minor in the car is considered child endangerment which could be a felony offense if the child is hurt in a drunk driving accident.

In fact, a DUI with a minor who sustains bodily injuries could be punished by a minimum jail sentence of one year and a minimum fine of $2,500. These punishments are only the mandatory minimums, and the maximum sentence could land you in a far worse situation.

The Cost of Conviction

Criminal convictions, no matter how big or small, have a negative stigma. Convicted felons in particular experience discrimination and are ostracized from society because of their criminal record. A felony conviction could destroy job opportunities, education, and your future in addition to putting a strain on your loved ones.

In DUI cases, breathalyzers and field sobriety tests are not always effective but the court views failure to pace as a clear indicator of guilt. Unfortunately, this means that you could face full DUI penalties even if you did nothing wrong and the officer performed the test incorrectly.

That is why it is crucial that y our enlist the help of an attorney. A legal representative can help guide you through the court process and advocate for your rights including the right to a fair trial. The Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC, has helped countless clients protect their freedom and we are prepared to assist you.

Do not leave your DUI to chance. Contact our attorneys today.


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