Driving Under the Influence: A Fine Line for Troopers

In the online version of the Kitsap Sun’s Code 911 section, we reported Monday that police had found a man passed out at the wheel of his car from alcohol consumption.

The engine was running, and a blood alcohol test confirmed that he had a level of .211 — nearly three times the legal limit for driving.

A shoo-in for a driving under the influence charge, or DUI for short?

Not quite, explains Brian George, a spokesman for the Washington State Patrol.


The law says that you must have “physical control” of your vehicle and have a blood-alcohol level of above .08 to warrant a DUI.

In this case, the trooper decided to let the man go home with a roommate because “he felt the car was safely off the road,” in the parking lot at Shari’s, George said, and thus not in physical control.

It is up to the trooper, deputy or officer to make the call, George said. But chances are, if he’d even touched the pedal in any direction, he’d have been booked for DUI, he added.

And what about the Washington State Ferries?

“The ferries we consider to be an extension of the state highways, so even if you’re parked, if you’re drunk, then its DUI,” George said.

A DUI is different from driving with an open container, George said. That is actually a citation — a $101 fine — but should that drink push a person’s blood-alcohol level above .08, that, of course, is a DUI.

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