A South Dakota court recently decided that a man, whose car went into motion when he accidentally pressed on the gear shift, could not be convicted of DUI.
The decision was delivered by the South Dakota Supreme Court in State Vs Nikolite. In this case, the man who was under the influence of alcohol, was not actually driving the truck. His girlfriend, who was not intoxicated, was the designated driver. The man went to the truck to get cigarettes. When he opened the passenger door, he leaned across the seat, and in doing so, he bumped the gear shift. The truck immediately went into motion, and struck another vehicle.
When police officers reached the scene of the accident, they saw that the man was in a state of intoxication, and decided that he had to be arrested for driving under the influence. A court later determined that the man was in physical control of the truck at the time, and therefore, was guilty of DUI charges.
However, the Supreme Court has dismissed that ruling. According to the Supreme Court ruling, the man was not in the normal driving position at the time that the truck was set into motion, and struck the other car. He, in his position at the time of the accident, could not have normally operated a vehicle. At the time of the accident, he was actually standing outside the truck and only the top half of his body, was leaning into the car through the door.
In the divided ruling, the Supreme Court judges who voted for the ruling, stated, that while the man was reaching across the passenger seat to get a cigarette, his body was not in the position that placed him in control of the vehicle, or would allow him to operate the vehicle in the manner in which it is normally operated.