Many people assume that they are safe from DUI-related charges as soon as they slide into the passenger seat of a car, but in many states, you don't need to be driving to face legal consequences. Although an actual DUI charge typically requires you to have been in control of the vehicle at the time, passengers are still vulnerable to arrest under certain circumstances. Knowing your rights and a contacting good DUI attorney in these situations can help you avoid a conviction and any punishments it entails.
Avoiding Disorderly Conduct Charges
When you are first pulled over as part of a DUI stop, your first course of action should be to remain compliant and to not interfere with the arresting officer. Most passengers are only charged with an offense if they act disorderly, such as insulting the officer or refusing to exit the vehicle. Disorderly conduct leaves you open to arrest, charges, and further scrutiny, and it should be avoided at all costs. Of course, if you have already been arrested or charged, you will likely need to move on to the next few steps.
Understanding What Qualifies as Reckless Endangerment
If you were sober and riding along with an intoxicated driver, you may face charges of reckless endangerment for not taking over in a potentially dangerous situation. As strange as it might seem, you can be required to take a field sobriety test alongside the driver to prove that you were not capable of driving. You can fight this charge if you were not aware of the driver's impairment, suspect that the encounter was unlawful, or are unable to drive due to a disability or not having a license.
Being Arrested for Intoxication as a Passenger
If the arresting officer has reason to believe that you are intoxicated due to a controlled substance, you may be arrested or searched as well. The laws around this are particularly difficult and complicated, so always contact an attorney if you are arrested on these grounds. Sometimes, officers arrest passengers on the suspicion that they have traded places with the driver to hide irresponsible driving, or passengers who are in the car without the designated driver present. These cases are also often successfully fought in courts, but you will want a legal expert by your side to present your case.
Contesting DUI Charges as a Passenger
Most people are not especially excited about the prospect of facing legal action over a DUI-related charge when they were not even driving. If you are being charged as a passenger in a DUI case, contact a DUI attorney at a law office like the Grafton Law Office to learn about your options and explain your situation more fully. With a little luck and the right attorney, you may be able to have the charges dismissed or at least lowered to a less severe punishment. Rather than accept the harsh DUI sentencing of many states, arm yourself with a legal professional today to ensure that your case is both treated fairly and resolved quickly.