Thursday , October 19 2017
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Can You Be Arrested for “Aiding and Abetting” a Drunk Driver?

Is it possible to be an accomplice to drunk driving – that is, to be convicted of “aiding and abetting” a person who was driving under the influence of alcohol?

In one case in Maine, two men were drinking together in a bar.  When they left, the owner of the car had his friend drive since the friend was less intoxicated.  The two were stopped by the police, and the owner/passenger was taken to a police station — where he refused to take a breath test because he said he had not been driving.  He was subsequently charged with DUI — operating or attempting to operate a motor vehicle under the influence.  At trial, the jury found him guilty of DUI as both a principal and an accomplice.

On appeal, the court held that the accomplice statute applied to drunk driving offenses, and that the evidence was sufficient for a jury to find both the intent and the solicitation necessary for being an accomplice to DUI.  The defendant, said the court, had the specific intent to enlist his accomplice/friend in driving under the influence.  State v. Stratton, 591 A.2d 246 (Me. 1991). 

How far can this go?  Can you be guilty of letting a friend drive while intoxicated? The majority rule in American courts today is that any passenger, including the owner, can be held criminally liable as an aider/abettor in the commission of the offense of DUI.  Nor is there any requirement that the accomplice be a passenger or owner of the vehicle.  In Guzman v. State, 586 S.E.2d 59 (Ga. App. 2003), for example, the defendant was convicted of two counts of vehicular homicide when he allowed a 14-year-old to drive his bother and a friend in Guzman’s vehicle after having given beer to the boys.  Mr. Guzman’s criminal intent was inferred by his conduct in giving the driver alcohol and the car keys, then standing silently by as the 14-year-old got behind the wheel and drive away.

Query:  Assuming the validity of an accomplice theory, could not the accomplice’s own intoxication degate the specific intent required to be an accomplice to drunk driving?

About Lawrence Taylor

Lawrence Taylor
Lawrence Taylor is one of the most respected DUI defense attorneys in the country. With over 43 years experience in DUI defense, he has lectured to attorneys at over 200 seminars in 41 states. An original founder and former Dean of the National College for DUI Defense, Mr. Taylor's book "Drunk Driving Defense" has been the best-selling textbook on the subject for 31 years and is now in its 7th edition. He is today one of only 5 DUI attorneys in California who is Board-certified as a DUI defense specialist. A former Marine and graduate of the University of California at Berkeley (1966) and the UCLA School of Law (1969), Lawrence Eric Taylor served as deputy public defender and deputy district attorney in Los Angeles before entering private practice. He was the trial judge's legal advisor in People vs Charles Manson, was Supreme Court counsel in the Onion Field murder case and was retained by the Attorney General of Montana as an independent Special Prosecutor to conduct a one-year grand jury probe of governmental corruption. Turning to teaching, Mr. Taylor served on the faculty of Gonzaga University School of Law, where he was voted Professor of the Year, was invited to be Visiting Professor at Pepperdine University Law School, and was finally appointed Fulbright Professor of Law at Osaka University in Japan. Mr. Taylor continues to limit the practice of his 5-attorney Southern California law firm to DUI defense exclusively. With offices in Long Beach, Irvine, Beverly Hills, Pasadena, Riverside and Carlsbad, Mr. Taylor and his firm of DUI defense attorneys may be reached through their website at www.duicentral.com or by telephone at (800) 777-3349.

If you would like to contact the author, please visit: http://www.duicentral.com/


One comment

  1. Great Article. It’s too bad the courts are allowing inferences of criminal intent when it is clearly not the intent of the defendant that somebody else DUI. People are just trying to be safe by having the least intoxicated person drive. Fear of being prosecuted as an accomplice may lead to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter who drives. That could be a dangerous situation. Poor policy. Thanks for sharing.

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