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Circumstances Play a Large Role in DUI Convictions

Jeff Cole
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Partner at Zimmer, Duncan & Cole

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You may wonder if you can be arrested for a DUI while sitting in your parked car. In South Dakota, it will depend on the facts of your case.

Factors That Determine Whether an Arrest Was Legal

In South Dakota, a person can be arrested for DUI even if he is not driving his vehicle, but it will only be legal in certain situations. Two South Dakota Supreme Court cases show that different facts can reach opposite results:

  • South Dakota v. Kitchens. In this 1993 Supreme Court case, the defendant was found passed out in his truck in a store parking lot with several empty beer cans in the vehicle. He was slumped over the steering wheel, but the keys were not in the ignition. He was arrested for DUI after failing a field sobriety test. The Court ruled that he could be convicted of DUI even though he was not driving the truck. All the prosecution had to show was that he was in control of the pick-up, and he could have potentially driven it. The Court concluded he could have done so if he had woken up, started the engine, and proceeded to drive.
  • State v. Nikolite. In this 2014 Supreme Court case, the defendant started moving a truck when he accidently bumped the gear shift. His girlfriend, who was not drinking, was the designated driver, and the defendant had not been driving the vehicle. He had gone back to the truck to get his cigarettes. When he opened the passenger door and leaned across the seat, he bumped the gear shift. The truck began moving and hit another vehicle. When the police arrived, they arrested him for DUI. The Court ruled that he was not in a normal driving position given that he was outside of the truck with only his upper body in the vehicle. The Court determined that he could not operate the truck in this situation and reversed his conviction.

These examples show that successfully beating a DUI arrest depends on the circumstances of each individual case. That is why it is critical to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney if you are arrested.

At Zimmer, Duncan & Cole, LLP, our experienced criminal defense attorneys can honestly explain what you can expect after your arrest and will help you fight to get the charges dismissed or to settle your case for a reduced sentence. Start an online chat or call us at 888-733-2992 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.


Category: Criminal Defense


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