The law against drunk driving is a bit broader than you might think. It doesn’t outlaw just driving while intoxicated but also being in physical control of a vehicle while intoxicated. If you are sitting in the driver’s seat with the keys, you are considered in control, even if the car is turned off. You can be arrested, charged and found guilty of a DUI.

If you are drinking outside in your yard on a Saturday afternoon and go sit in your car to listen to the radio, you could be arrested for a DUI. If you have nowhere else to go after leaving a party, at least leave your keys with a friend and not in your vehicle. Even if you’re sleeping in the car, you can be in trouble if the keys are in there too.

The bottom line: If you need to sober up before driving home, don’t do it while sitting in your car. The question isn’t whether you intended to drive but whether you could have driven if you wanted to. Play it safe and stay away from your vehicle. While the fact that you didn’t have access to your keys might eventually prove your innocence, it doesn’t mean you won’t be arrested, charged and prosecuted.

If you plan to argue that you weren’t in actual physical control of your vehicle when you were arrested for a DUI, don’t try to argue it alone. It’s an area of law that requires the experience of a seasoned criminal defense attorney. The judge and prosecutor have heard all the excuses before. If you’re serious about proving your innocence, hire someone who knows how to do it.

Written by Michael Helfand