It seems like passengers should never be given DUI charges. After all, the word driving is right there at the beginning of Driving Under the Influence. However, this is something that can happen under the right circumstances. The key thing to keep in mind is that the person who controls or influences the vehicle in any way can be charged, no matter where he or she is seated.
In fact, a woman in nearby Virginia was given a DUI as a passenger a few years ago, proving that it can happen. She had been drinking, got in the back seat of the car, and let someone else drive. However, during the drive, she decided she wanted to grab the steering wheel. She tried a few times, eventually got her hands on the wheel, and sent the car careening out of control.
The vehicle wrecked on the side of the road, hurting four people, including the woman who had grabbed the wheel. One person even suffered life-threatening injuries.
During the case, the woman did not know she could face DUI charges, as she maintained that she was never the driver. However, since she had so briefly been the one controlling the vehicle and causing it to crash, while intoxicated, she was charged with a DUI.
As this case shows, physical control of the car is the main factor that courts are going to look at. As such, it’s important for those who are injured in these accidents—even the driver, if he or she was not controlling the vehicle during the crash—to know what rights they have to compensation in Maryland.
Source: Life Saver, “Can a Back Seat Driver Get a DUI? It Just Happened in Virginia,” Charles Hickman, accessed March 17, 2016