Do the Keys Need to Be in the Ignition to Face a DWI Charge in Texas?

Unfortunately, many people make the reckless decision to drink and drive every day. The connotation and stigma surrounding driving while intoxicated charge is based on the often fatal or life-changing accidents they can cause. However, you can still receive a DWI conviction without driving your vehicle. Someone who is drunk and sitting in the car without the keys in the ignition can face charges. If you’re facing a DWI charge despite doing the right thing, you’ll want to keep reading. You’ll learn more about this unusual circumstance and how a McAllen, Texas DWI lawyer can help you.

If the Keys Aren’t in the Ignition, Can I Still Receive a DWI Charge?

It may come as a shock to learn that you can face a DWI charge even if your car keys are not in the ignition of your vehicle. This is due to the extremely vague language in the Texas statute prohibiting drunk driving.

In Texas, to receive a DWI, it must be determined that you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol and have operated or intend to operate the vehicle. However, the law does not define what “operating” a car means, leaving it open to interpretation by police and courts, which can vary from town to town.

Generally, if you are sitting in the driver’s seat, even if your keys aren’t in the ignition, it constitutes reasonable suspicion that you had operated or intended to operate the vehicle at some point.

What Are the Penalties for a DWI?

The penalties for a DWI in Texas can be severe, even if it is your first offense. If facing charges for the first time, you can expect a maximum fee of $2,000, up to 180 days in jail with a minimum sentence of three days, and your license may be suspended for up to one year.

The legal implications are intense, but the social ramifications of a DWI can be severe. A criminal record can have lasting effects on your life. You may experience the loss of job opportunities, custody changes, housing, and other rights you can enjoy without a criminal record, all for sitting in a car while intoxicated. Similarly, you may experience strained relationships with your friends, families, and neighbors as the social implications of a criminal record can change the way people interact with you.

Should I Contact an Attorney?

If you’re facing a DWI charge for sitting in your car while intoxicated with the keys out of the ignition, you must reach out to an attorney. A seasoned lawyer can examine the evidence to determine whether or not you were actually guilty of operating a vehicle to help keep your record free from an unwarranted criminal conviction.

When you need legal representation, Angel Davila is ready to help. With the experience necessary, our firm can help guide you through the process. We will do everything to fight for the best outcome for your unique circumstances. Reach out today to learn how we can help you.