Updated on February 5th, 2024 at 08:51 pm

Getting a DUI charge for driving a vehicle is upsetting enough, but getting a DUI for sitting in a parked car?  A Wisconsin officer can charge a person with a drunk driving ticket, even if the vehicle was not in motion.  Operating a vehicle is reason enough for an officer.  So, what is the difference?

Wisconsin DUI Charges for Driving a Motor Vehicle

A person is considered to be driving a motor vehicle in Wisconsin if they have control over the speed and direction while the vehicle is in motion.  The use of the acceleration, the brakes, and the clutch and shifter (if a manual vehicle) allow a driver to determine speed, regardless of acceleration or deceleration.   The steering wheel provides the driver with the direction of the vehicle.

A Wisconsin police officer will have suspicion of a drunk driver if speed is fluctuating anywhere between 5 mph to 15 mph difference.  Although a driver under the influence may think he is driving in a straight line, a Wisconsin officer will observe swerving, either within a lane or well over the center and/or median lines.

Operating a Motor Vehicle Leads to Wisconsin DUI

Movement of the vehicle is not necessary for a Wisconsin police officer to charge a driver with drunk driving, a person “operating” a vehicle can still be cited for drunk driving. A Wisconsin officer also does not need to prove a person’s intention to drive (or not drive) a vehicle to charge him with a DUI.

Before a driver can drive a motor vehicle, the driver must first operate the vehicle.  Operating the vehicle is a physical activity of the controls which put the vehicle in motion.  Operating a vehicle would be starting the engine, releasing the parking brake, or shifting the vehicle into gear.

Typical Wisconsin Scenarios

After spending the evening (or most of the night) at the bar with some friends, you may decide it is time to get some sleep.  If you realize that you are too drunk to drive, a safe alternative is to just sleep in the car.  When it is winter is Wisconsin, you are going to want to have the heat on, but turning the key in the ignition is operation of a vehicle…

If you have already started driving home after the bar, but realize you may be too drunk to drive, you decide to pull the car over, keeping the car running, and “sleep off” the alcohol.  The vehicle is in operation and a Wisconsin officer has reason to believe you were driving…

Hire the Right Attorney

Have you been charged with a DUI without ever “driving?”  Contact Wisconsin DUI Defense Attorney Nathan J. Dineen of Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C. at 1-800-805-1976 or Complete a Free DUI Case Review.  Attorney Dineen continues his legal education regularly by attending seminars across the country that focus on issues of concern in DUI defense.  He understands the difficulty in this unfortunate event, and helps his clients through of every step.