DUI Or Actual Physical Control and The Truck Driver
I grew up with my father gone five out of seven days of the week supporting our family as a long distance truck driver. I will never forget how exciting it was for me as a small boy going with him on occasion and sleeping in the “big rig” sleeper and stopping at truck stops which to me as a boy were a world in themselves. You could eat, shower, play games in the game room, or buy just about anything you wanted. Even today I love stopping at truck stops.
As the son of a truck driver and now as a criminal defense lawyer I am particularly aware of the special legal issues truckers face. One of the issues that long distance overnight truck driver faces is what to do – where do they go – if he has had any alcohol. Can he just park the Truck and sleep it off in the Cab?
Any truck driver who decides to sleep off a night of drinking in the sleeper cab is putting his license at risk. Tennessee DUI laws, just like most states, prohibit not only driving while impaired or over the legal Blood Alcohol Limit, but they also prohibit being in actual physical control (APC) of a vehicle while being impaired or over the legal BAC limit. This means that in most states sitting or sleeping in a parked car or truck while impaired or over the legal BAC limit, with the keys in the vehicle ignition or even within reach are sufficient to violate the actual physical control law.
If you do find yourself in that situation and are arrested and charged with DUI or APC, there may be unique defenses. For example I have a case now where the Client parked his truck in the truck stop truck lot, got a ride and hit the town, and got a ride back to the truck. The lot attendant called the police when he saw the driver was allegedly intoxicated. Even though he was in a parked truck and the truck was not running my client was arrested and charged with D.U.I. and Actual Physical Control of a vehicle while impaired or over the legal limit.
The D.U.I. and A.P.C. law in Tennessee as in most states prohibits driving or actual physical control on a public street or any parking lot frequented by the general public. I intend to present as a defense that the truck stop parking lot which is dedicated to semi –trailer trucks only and to the drivers of those trucks, is not a parking lot frequented by the general public. It is a dedicated area for truckers only, it is their home away from home as they spend their downtime in their truck. Therefore my client did not violate the law if he was impaired or over the legal blood alcohol limit because he was not in a parking lot frequented by the public at large. After all, even though I still stop at truck stops when I am in my car, I never take my car to the truck parking area, this area is for the trucker, it is his home away from home, it is not for me or the general public as the casual traveler.
I believe this is a valid defense but ultimately it will be up to the jury to decide and I would not advise any truck driver to count on this defense as a sure fire winner. The best policy is to remember that even if you are not driving you put your license and your job at risk if you get into your truck after drinking. Therefore, avoid that situation and get a cab and a hotel.
To all Truck Drivers God Bless, and be safe out there.
Brent Horst, Attorney at Law
Criminal Lawyer in Nashville. Licensed in Tennessee and Florida