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Woman charged with drunk driving -- from the back seat

It's not uncommon to read about drunk driving cases involving rather strange circumstances, but a recent DUI case out of the state of Virginia is particularly remarkable as it gives a new meaning to the term "back seat driver."

According to reports, five people were hospitalized back in January after being involved in a rollover crash in Bedford County, Virginia. After investigating the circumstances behind the crash, police later determined that an intoxicated 23-year-old woman riding in the back seat of the car was the primary cause of the wreck.

How is this possible?

The account of the accident given by the vehicle's front seat passenger -- which was described by an investigating officer as "credible and reliable" -- indicates that the young woman attempted to grab the steering wheel from the back seat several times before actually succeeding. This action, in turn, caused the driver to lose control and the vehicle to roll over.

This action, while likely performed with no actual malice, was still enough to result in her being charged with drunk driving.

"It's certainly unique. We don't get these cases very often," said one assistant county prosecutor. "But the courts have ruled on these issues. If you're intoxicated and you take control of the wheel, you're going to be prosecuted for DUI."

While the toxicology reports outlining the young woman's blood alcohol content have yet to be released, a search warrant indicates that she "acknowledged her intoxication" at the hospital, but also expressed her belief that it didn't matter because she was a passenger.

It is worth noting that this is not the first case of a passenger in Virginia being charged with DUI. Back in 2003, the Virginia Court of Appeals upheld the drunk driving conviction of a man who grabbed the wheel of a relative's car and caused a crash.

Similarly, the court upheld the DUI conviction of a man who was found sleeping inside his parked car with the key in the ignition.

Stay tuned for more from our New York traffic law blog ...

A DWI/DUI arrest can have a serious impact on your life in a number of ways and result in various penalties. In fact, many of these penalties are much more serious than the mere license suspension or revocation.

When faced with this scenario, consider contacting an attorney who understands New York's confusing legal system, and who can help you evaluate your options and make the right decisions.

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.


The Roanoke Times, "Back seat passenger charged with DUI in Bedford crash," Neil Harvey, Feb. 20, 2013

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