Answer: technically, yes. But that being said, it is pretty much unheard of to cite or charge a sober driver with a drunk passenger in the vehicle.
In the article that follows, we’ll explain.
Is It Illegal To Drive With a Drunk Passenger? (Explained)
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Every state has some form of a public intoxication law.
These laws prohibit an individual who is visibly under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicant from appearing in public or a premises open to the public.
Some states require that the offender actually create or cause some kind of disturbance while under the influence.
Some states conclude that the drunkenness is the disturbance and no additional behavior is necessary.
Aiding and Abetting
The legal doctrine of aiding and abetting is also known as being an “accessory” to a crime.
If an individual helps another individual commit a crime, they can be charged criminally for their behavior.
Depending on the crime itself, the seriousness of the aiding and abetting can be equivalent to the crime itself.
Aiding and Abetting Public Intoxication
While we can argue that a private vehicle isn’t a premises open to the public, an intoxicated individual in a car can generally be viewed by the public, and the car itself is usually present on a public roadway or other premises open to the public.
If a well-meaning individual is driving a very drunk person somewhere, he is technically helping the drunk person commit the crime of being intoxicated in public.
Why Don’t People Get Charged With Aiding and Abetting Public Intoxication?
It is in the best interests for all people in the community that a drunk person be driven home by a sober individual.
If people got prosecuted for being a designated driver, then drunk drivers would have fewer options available to them to get home.
After all, charging sober drivers would prevent taxis, Lyfts, Ubers, buses, and other methods of public transportation from conveying drunk people home.
The inevitable result is that more drunk drivers would attempt to drive home, which is bad for everyone.
What Sort of Situation Could Result In a Criminal Charge For Driving Around a Drunk Person?
If the ‘driving’ was more about partying and less about getting home safely, the driver could open himself up to criminal charges.
For example, let’s say the sober driver was allowing the drunk person to continue to consume alcohol in the car, to hang out the window, to display private body parts, to commit crimes (like throw glass bottles at pedestrians) and to otherwise encourage mayhem, the sober driver could end up in trouble as well.
But in general, so long as the driver was doing his best to just get the drunk person home, and did everything possible to discourage unruly behavior, he should avoid the attention of the police.
If you are concerned about criminal charges associated with your driving, every lawyer would recommend that you contact a criminal defense lawyer in your state for state specific advice in your case.
Even if you don’t think you’ll need a lawyer or be able to afford a retained lawyer in your case, early consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your state could prevent you from making your case worse and give you guidance about what to do next.
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