It is not uncommon for passengers in a vehicle to be under the influence of alcohol if the driver is also driving while intoxicated. Most passengers do not expect to be charged with DUI if the police pull over the driver and arrest the driver on a DUI charge. However, passengers need to be aware that they can be charged with DUI-related charges as a passenger under Pennsylvania law. If a passenger is convicted of DUI-related charges, the passenger could face severe penalties, including probation, jail time, fines, and a suspended driver’s license.
If you are arrested for DUI in northwestern Pennsylvania, you need an Erie DUI attorney who understands drunk driving laws, including the various DUI defenses. An experienced criminal defense attorney can review the charges against you and the circumstances of your DUI arrest to determine the best course of action to mitigate the negative consequences of a drunk driving charge.
Passengers and DUI-Related Charges in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania laws define impaired driving as driving, operating, or being in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle after consuming enough alcohol to impair the person’s ability to operate the vehicle safely. A person may also be guilty of drunk driving if the person has a BAC of .08 or higher.
Since a passenger typically does not have control of the vehicle, a passenger who is intoxicated may not be guilty of DUI under this definition. However, there are several DUI-related charges that a passenger may be charged with under certain circumstances. Some examples of DUI-related charges a passenger might face include:
A passenger could be charged with reckless endangerment if the passenger knowingly allowed an intoxicated person to operate the vehicle. If the passenger was not sober or capable of driving, reckless endangerment might not apply. However, being drunk and allowing another drunk person to operate your vehicle may not be sufficient reason to avoid a reckless endangerment charge.
Open Container Law and Underage Drinking
A passenger could be charged with having an open container of alcohol in the vehicle. If a person in the vehicle under 21 years of age is intoxicated, a passenger may also be charged with providing alcohol to a minor.
If a sober passenger switch seats with a drunk driver to help the driver avoid a DUI charge, the passenger could be charged with several crimes. For example, providing fault information to a police officer may be appropriate if the passenger claims to have been driving immediately before the DUI stop. Even though a passenger may not face DUI-related charges in this case, criminal charges of any type can carry unwanted consequences.
Interfering with the Safe Operation of the Vehicle
A passenger who is intoxicated can be charged with DUI-related charges if he or she interferes with the vehicle’s operation. Along with DUI, the passenger could face a variety of criminal charges, especially if the interference results in a DUI accident.
Fight DUI Charges with the Help of an Erie DUI Attorney
The best way to deal with a DUI charge is to consult an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney conducts a thorough investigation to determine if your legal rights were violated, whether the DUI charges are valid, and if any DUI defenses offer you a good chance of a dismissal or reduction of charges. Before you plead guilty to DUI in northwestern Pennsylvania, contact our office to discuss your case with an experienced attorney.
Contact The Travis Law Firm at (800) 401-2066 to request a free legal consultation with a DUI attorney in northwestern Pennsylvania.