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Do the Keys Need to Be in the Ignition to Get a DWI Charge in Nanuet, New York?

While a DWI charge may not seem as severe as other crimes, it is a charge that can impact your record for the rest of your life. However, if you’re facing a driving while intoxicated conviction even though you never turned your car on, you need to act fast. These charges can carry extreme legal and social ramifications. If charged with a DWI for sitting in your vehicle while intoxicated despite having the keys out of the ignition, you’ll need to keep reading. You’ll learn more about these charges while discovering how a Spring Valley DWI defense attorney can help you navigate this serious matter.

What Constitutes a DWI Charge in New York?

New York, like all other states, strictly prohibits driving while under the influence of alcohol. However, the law is vague, only citing that operating a motor vehicle is illegal. However, because there is no definition of what “operating” a car constitutes, it is left open to interpretation by police officers and judges across the state.

While turning the car on to crank the heat or listen to music technically puts you in control of the vehicle, as you had to operate it by turning it on, you can still be charged if you never put the key in the ignition. This means simply sitting in the driver’s seat, even if the keys are on the seat next to you, can be considered intent to operate a vehicle.

What Are the Penalties for a DWI?

Though a DWI may seem like a hefty traffic ticket, this is a serious criminal offense. The penalties for a first-time offense include a minimum of 3 days in jail but up to 180, a maximum fine of $2,000, and the suspension of your license for up to a year. Similarly, if convicted, this offense is non-expungable, meaning it will remain on your record for the rest of your life.

You can also face social implications, like strained relationships with friends and family, as the law doesn’t differentiate between drinking and driving and sitting in a car with the engine off while intoxicated. You could also face setbacks in your career, as this will show up on background checks.

How Can I Protect Myself?

When possible, do not sit in your vehicle if you are intoxicated. Even if you have no intention of driving, you can still be charged. If you’re waiting for a ride home from a friend or rideshare service, try to remain inside the bar or club until they arrive.

If this is not an option and you must enter your car, there are steps you can take to lessen the chances of facing a DWI charge. Placing the keys in a location like your trunk or behind one of your tires can prove you had no intention of operating the vehicle. You should also sit in the back seat, far away from the steering console.

If you’re facing legal consequences for sitting in your car while intoxicated despite never turning the car on, you’ll want to retain legal guidance as soon as possible. The Law Office of Kevin T. Conway has the experience necessary to review the details of your case and put together a possible defense. Reach out today to discuss the details of your case.

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