It’s commonly believed that DUI charges only apply to drivers. This is reasonable to assume since DUI charges apply to people who were operating a motorized vehicle while intoxicated. In other words, the passenger, in theory, wouldn’t be charged with a DUI even if they were drunk.
However, there are some cases where a passenger was charged with a DUI or similar criminal charges. While this rarely happens, the following are scenarios you should be aware of next time you’re getting a ride home:
The passenger and driver switched seats
A passenger is likely to get a DUI charge if it’s unclear who was driving. This rarely happens because a passenger is helping the driver avoid further criminal charges. Instead, this could happen after an accident. The police may not know who was driving or believe that the person who’s been drinking (which could be the passenger) was responsible for the accident.
The passenger started steering the wheel
People who are inebriated can act haphazardly. While they’re in the passenger seat, they may try to take the wheel. If they cause an accident or lead an officer to believe that the driver is drunk, then the passenger could be charged with a DUI.
The passenger knew the driver was drunk
Some people are aware that the person driving is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Yet, they willfully disregard their condition. If an auto accident occurs and others are seriously or fatally injured, then the passenger could be charged with a DUI or similar criminal charges such as reckless endangerment.
If you’re facing a DUI or criminal charge, then you may need to learn how you can defend yourself.