Blog Post

TAKE THE KEYS OUT OF THE IGNITION

So you have had a little too much to drink and you find yourself driving home. You are almost there but decide that it would be better to pull over and let some time pass. You just want to make sure you are a safe driver. That makes perfect sense.

But there are some things that you should know. The law in the State of Missouri prohibits operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You might think because you are parked that you are not violating the law. Well, that is what most people would think. Sadly, none of those people are on the Missouri Supreme Court.

You see some years ago the Justices on the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that once the key was in the ignition, and if the engine is running, an officer may have probable cause to believe the person sitting behind the wheel is operating the vehicle. That means that if you stop on an extremely cold night you can’t use the heater or an extremely hot day, you can’t use the air conditioner.

It is almost as though the Supreme Court is trying to make it as difficult as possible to do he right thing.

The language of this case can be found in Cox v. Director of Revenue, 98 S.W.3d 548 (Mo. 2003) In this case a young man had stopped while on his way home and decided to wait rather than drive. When the police came upon him sleeping in his car his engine was running, the air conditioner was on (It was August 15th, probably pretty hot and humid) and the car was in park. Yet the Supreme Court of Missouri found against him.

So, what do you do. First of all you should try not to drink and drive. But if you suddenly feel you might be intoxicated you should pull over to a safe place off the roadway. I did have a client once who was asleep in the middle of Interstate 70. That s not a good place to stop.

Take the keys out of the car and put them in the back seat or glove compartment. Lock your doors. get in the back seat if it is safe to do so, or at least get into the passenger seat.

If you are approached by a police officer, say nothing. Do not lie and say you weren’t driving earlier but do not say anything. Just politely tell the officer you are invoking your right to remain silent.

If the police officer is an honest one, that should pretty well be the end. If he or she is not, well then the trouble will begin. Whatever happens, continue to be polite and respectful. You do not have t perform any roadside tests like watching the tip of his finger or pen, walking a straight line or standing on one leg.

If you are eventually arrested you have to be given an opportunity to call an attorney. Put my number in your cell phone now.