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After having a few too many drinks at your local Anchorage bar, you made the smart choice to call for a ride. But before your sober driver arrives, the bartender kicks you out. You jump into your parked car and turn on the ignition to stay warm while you wait. Suddenly, a police car pulls up in the parking lot. The officer asks you to step out of the vehicle. After a field sobriety test, you find yourself arrested for a DUI.

Unfortunately, this situation can happen to many people with no intention of driving drunk. In Alaska, police can arrest anyone operating a vehicle, regardless of whether that person drove or not.

Operating a vehicle doesn’t necessarily mean driving

The law in Alaska states that anyone who “operates or drives” a car while intoxicated can commit a crime. Instead of focusing on whether or not the person was driving, an officer can arrest someone in actual physical control of the vehicle.

If you are in your car with the ability to drive, police may arrest you for a DUI. Since you are in the car and able to start it, the officer may presume that you already drove or that you planned on driving. Even without putting the car in gear, you can end up in jail.

Defending against actual physical control

When ruling on a DUI for actual physical control, a court will examine the facts of the case. They may consider where the car and the driver were at or whether the vehicle was on or off. They may also ask if the keys were in the ignition or if the car was even able to drive. The judge will use these facts to decide if the person should be convicted.

A parked car can still lead to a DUI

With the cold Alaskan weather, getting into your warm, parked car while waiting for a sober ride seems like a safe choice. But if police think you plan on driving, you may find yourself in a cold jail cell.