When a person is suspected of driving drunk in Virginia, police will pull them over and conduct a DUI investigation. Typically, the driver is then arrested at the scene of the incident and transported to the police station. But what happens if there was another person in the car, and does it matter if passengers were also drunk?
Passengers are not liable
Passengers who were riding in the car with a drunk driver have no liability for the driver’s actions. Regardless of whether the passengers were sober or drunk, police will consider the driver to be the only person with criminal responsibility for the DUI.
Police will be looking for witness statements
Police officers at the scene of a DUI arrest will want to speak with passengers in the vehicle. They will be looking for witness statements and information that they can use in their report about the driver. Police officers will also want to know whether the passengers are drunk and incapable of driving the car.
Although passengers are under no legal threat themselves, they may wish to remain silent until they have spoken to a lawyer. Passengers have every right to refuse to answer questions about the driver’s activities and the number of drinks that they had.
What happens to the car?
As long as the passenger is sober and licensed to drive, he or she can drive the vehicle away from the scene with permission from the car owner. If the passenger is drunk, however, the vehicle may have to be towed at the driver’s expense if it’s on public property or abandoned if it’s on private property. The passenger will then have to arrange a ride home by making a call to a friend or a taxi.
Talk to a lawyer if asked to testify
If authorities ask you to testify as an eyewitness in a drunk driving case, you may want to talk to a criminal defense lawyer about your rights. A lawyer may look into the case and help you to understand what you are legally obligated to do in this situation.