Do the keys have to be in the ignition to get a DWI in New Jersey?

DUI DWI drunk driving intoxicated keys in the ignition keys in possession

It may come as a surprise to many that the keys do not have to be in the ignition for an individual to be charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI). A person doesn’t even have to be driving the vehicle to get a DWI. Ultimately, individuals who are in actual physical control of a vehicle while their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08% or above will face a DWI conviction. The consequences of a DWI are serious and can negatively affect a person’s life and future. If you have been charged with a DUI when the keys were not in the ignition, please read on and contact an experienced Middlesex County DWI Attorney who can help prove you were not in actual physical control of your vehicle. 

Is it possible to get a DWI when the keys are not in the ignition in New Jersey?

A person can be charged with DWI even though the keys are not in the ignition. This is because an individual may be considered in actual physical control of their vehicle if they have their keys. In New Jersey, the law never mentions that a person must be driving to be charged with DWI. Instead, the law stipulates that an individual is prohibited from operating a vehicle while intoxicated. This means if an individual had the apparent ability to operate a vehicle they were in physical control of the vehicle. To determine if an individual was in actual physical control of a vehicle the following is assessed:

  • Where was the accused located in the vehicle (behind the wheel or backseat)?
  • Did the accused have their keys in their possession?
  • Were the keys in the ignition?
  • Was the engine running?
  • Where was the vehicle parked?
  • Was the vehicle broken down?

Ultimately, a person’s intent and physical control of their vehicle will be evaluated to determine whether they were operating their vehicle while intoxicated.

Should I speak with an attorney?

It is imperative for individuals charged with a DUI to obtain the legal services of a skilled attorney. A DWI can have long-term consequences that negatively affect a person’s life. As mentioned above, a DWI is a serious criminal offense and convicted individuals will face serious penalties. The severity of the punishment for a DWI in New Jersey depends on whether the individual has committed the offense before as well as what their BAC was. DWI penalties will be harsher if this is an individual’s second or third offense. The consequences will be more severe if an individual has a high BAC. Individuals charged with DWI may face hefty fines, license suspension, license revocation, and jail time.

If you or someone you love has been charged with a DWI, reach out to one of our skilled and determined attorneys. Our firm can help defend your rights and interests. Allow our firm to fight on your behalf today.

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