Police officer stopping blonde woman for DWI.

Can You Get a DWI in a Self-Driving Vehicle?

By Joel Hancock

The idea of “self-driving” vehicles is extremely exciting, like something out of a sci-fi movie. They allow the driver to sit back while the car operates by itself when in self-driving mode. Many are under the impression that “self-driving” vehicles do all the work, allowing you to do what you please while in the car. But what many do not know is that self-driving vehicles are not entirely autonomous; they still require the operator of the vehicle to take control of the wheel when necessary, such as in the case of an emergency. 

Unfortunately, several drivers in North Carolina have been pulled over by police officers because they were asleep behind the wheel while the autonomous vehicle was in motion. All of these individuals were charged with driving under the influence

Physical Control of the Vehicle

Although the vehicle operates on its own, a person must turn it on and off. Driving under the influence requires that the individual had physical control of the vehicle. Therefore prosecutors will often leverage circumstantial evidence in order to prove that the individual turned on the vehicle before the self-driving feature was activated. Such circumstantial evidence may include:

  • The individual is sitting in the driver’s seat
  • The keys are in the ignition
  • The engine is operating
  • The tires are warm to the touch
  • The vehicle is on a road or on the side of a road

Police Officers Require Reasonable Suspicion

However, it is important to point out that unless the vehicle is stopped at a roadside checkpoint, police officers must have reasonable suspicion in order to pull over the driver. When an individual is asleep behind the wheel this serves as reasonable suspicion enough to make a traffic stop. 

Generally speaking though, if the operator of a self-driving vehicle (that has the self-driving feature turned on) is awake and the vehicle is not moving in a reckless or questionable manner, police officers do not have reasonable suspicion to pull them over and therefore cannot issue them a citation. 

Attorney Joel Hancock at Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Helps Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with a DWI

When you have been pulled over – regardless of the type of vehicle that you are driving – and charged with a DWI, it can have a very long-lasting impact on your life. Not only can it affect your ability to obtain or keep certain jobs, but also it can have a permanent impact on your reputation. That’s why it is in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. 

At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we fully understand what is at stake and will do everything that we can to help you fight these charges. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

About the Author
Joel Hancock is a native of Carteret County, NC. He devotes 100% of his practice to defending those accused of traffic infractions, DWI, misdemeanors, and felonies in Carteret County, NC.
Posted in DWI