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Can You Get a DUI in Self-Driving Cars?


With the visibility of self-driving cars; the question arises about DUIs and the legality as it pertains to them. Can you get a DUI for riding in one?

Self-Drive and Control

A lot of the argument is about who is in control of the vehicle. If you are drunk and have control of the car, apparently you are getting a DUI. If you aren’t, then you’re lucky. But, self-driving cars aren’t in complete control. The person who rides in it has some power and has to give commands to the computer that is running the car. Also, there is the fact that there are specific cues that will cause an officer to pull over a vehicle. These don’t tend to be a problem, or shouldn’t, in self-driving cars which are computer driven.


There is some variance on the interpretation of physical control of a vehicle. There are also factors that can come into play. They may take into account the location the car is parked, whether the vehicle was running and where the keys were, or even where the driver was seated. In some cases, you can be charged with a DUI if you are not technically “driving.” It had been pointed out by Tesla that their car’s autopilot feature required the person driving to have their hands on the steering wheel, at all times. This means they would need to have control and responsibility of the vehicle. While there are improvements ever evolving, there is still some requirement that the driver is alert and in control.

The Technology

Self-driving cars are still going through so many modifications and improvements, that they haven’t been available to the public. The technology is always fundamental and going through alterations and tests consistently. There is also some driver involvement necessary, and it notifies the operator of it. This could be to avoid legal run-ins like liability but could impact a DUI case.

Technological Involvement

It would be likely that any programming would keep the vehicle consistent in speed and pretty precise in movement. This means that the officer observing the car would likely have little reason to signal a self-driving car to pull over. This would also make a DUI unlikely, however not impossible. If there is a reason for the officer to pull the car over, it is possible to deduce enough from contact with the operator. This could mean enough for a field sobriety test.

Public Intoxication in Self-Driving Cars

If you get pulled over and are not considered to be operating the vehicle, or “driving,” you aren’t necessarily out of the woods, yet. There is still the possibility of a Public Intoxication charge. This is mainly when you are visibly drunk and in public. Public is a relative term, however, and is determined by the court. It is possible that while you are in self-driving cars, you can be considered in public. You are not in a building or your home, so there is still a possibility. While this charge is only a misdemeanor, it may even mean jail time or fines.


Whether the case qualifies for that charge and what ensues after is dependent on the details. If you have questions about your situation and the circumstances surrounding it, you can start here. The distinction between the two charges hinges on the smallest detail, so every scrap of information is valuable and worth considering. This is something that will require the attention of an experienced lawyer, so don’t take the risk of representing yourself. A minor distinction could mean a victory or even dismissal.

If you would like to learn more about the likelihood of getting a DUI while in self-driving cars, you can start here. If you have more questions about a DUI or any legal offense involving intoxication, you should consult an attorney. They know the inner workings of the judicial system better than anyone and can tell you what you is an actual concern, versus needless worry. They can also advise as to the ramifications of any details involved. You will want to be completely open and honest, so finding a lawyer you trust and who will focus on you is crucial. Make sure you ask any questions you may have and don’t worry about embarrassment. They have seen cases like yours a thousand times and probably some much more severe. Just remember that they are on your side and don’t want you to go to jail or pay any more than you have to. That also makes them look bad. Your freedom and your safety are as important to them as it is to you.

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