Jul 31, 2014
Sleeping behind the wheel leads to DUI and 8 years.
State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant was in
“actual physical control” of his car. The car was poorly
parked and had an open door.
People v. Morris, 1st
Chicago police found Defendant passed out in the front seat of a
parked car, the ignition off, the driver’s side door open, and keys
in his right hand. It was 2 a.m.
Police did not see defendant drive. A bag of groceries sat on the
curb. Police woke him up and he reeked of alcohol. He failed field
sobriety tests and the police believed he was highly
Defendant’s witness said that she drove the car to the store. She
could not carry the groceries because she was carrying beer and
whiskey. She said she gave the keys to defendant so he could go get
the groceries which she left in the front passenger seat. She went
to bed and didn’t realize defendant had not come back.
Defendant was convicted of aggravated DUI (625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(2))
and felony driving while license suspended ((625 ILCS 5/6-303(a)).
8 years in prison was the sentence because defendant was sentenced
as a class X Felony! This was not his first time at the rodeo. He
had two prior felony DUIs, a class 1 delivery of a controlled
substance, a Class 2 burglary and 18
prior driving while license suspended charges.
Yea, thats a lot.
Defendant claims that the State did not prove he was in was in
“actual physical control” of the car.
The DUI section 11-501(a) (2) of the Illinois Criminal Code
provides that an individual “shall not drive or be in actual
physical control of any vehicle within this State while under the
influence of alcohol.” 625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(2).
It is well settled that “a person need not drive to be in actual
physical control of a vehicle, nor is the person’s intent to put
the car in motion relevant to the determination of actual physical
The issue of actual physical control is determined on a
case-by-case basis, giving consideration to whether the
(1) possessed the ignition key;
(2) had the physical capability to operate the vehicle;
(3) was sitting in the driver’s seat; and
(4) was alone with the doors locked.
These factors provide a guideline to determine whether the
defendant had actual physical control of the vehicle; the list is
neither exhaustive, nor is the absence of one individual factor
Reasoning for Conviction
Who knows if he was driving, but he was in actual physical control.
The judge did not believe his witness. But even the witness was
telling the truth, Defendant would have still been guilty.
We don’t know if Defendant was alone in the car. Yet, it
was the driver’s side door that was open. Under these
circumstances, Defendant could have easily woken up, closed the
door, and driven away because the keys were in his hand.
A rational trier of fact could find that Defendant, alone in the
driver’s seat with keys in his right hand, was in actual physical
control of the car.
Other cases have lead to convictions with far less “control”.
See People v.
Davis, 205 Ill. App. 3d 431, 435 (1990) (defendant found
sleeping in backseat with keys in ignition).
But This Defendant Didn’t Know Sleeping Behind the Wheel Was a
Defendant argued that he could not reasonably know that he could be
committing a DUI just for being passed out in the driver’s
seat with the keys in his hand and the driver’s side door open.
The court disagreed. Although he may have not actually have known
that his conduct constituted actual physical control, ignorance of
the law has long been rejected as a defense.
The case law establishes that to prevent someone from making the
decision to drive a vehicle while lacking clarity of thought due to
alcohol consumption, a defendant will be deemed to be in actual
physical control when he or she “is behind the steering wheel in
the driver’s seat with the ignition key and physically capable of
starting the engine and moving the vehicle.”
Although Morris may not have been aware that his conduct might be
illegal, that alone does not render the statute unconstitutionally
vague. He was guilty.