What Happens to a Passenger in a DUI Arrest?


Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious crime in most states. Officers who happen under a drunk driver will typically make an arrest at the scene, carrying the driver off to the hospital for a blood draw or taking them to the police station for a breath test. What happens if you’re just riding in the car? Do you face any consequences for your role in the incident? Perhaps more importantly, what do you do when your friend or family member is carried off to jail? It all depends on where the traffic stop happened and whether or not you are intoxicated.

No criminal liability for riding with a drunk driver
The good news for you is that there is no liability for just being in the car with a drunk driver. DUI statutes in all states put the responsibility on the person who operated the vehicle. If you’re just in the passenger seat, then you are not operating. This means that you will have no criminal liability for the action. Police won’t place you in custody or attempt to arrest you. In fact, they may treat you on some level like a victim in the situation.

Facing down police questioning
One of the things that officers will do at the scene of a DUI is try to get as much information as possible from all witnesses. As the person riding with the drunk driver, you may constitute a key witness. Generally speaking, multiple officers will process a DUI. They may ask you some informal questions about what you were doing, where you were drinking and any activities of the driver. You can, of course, refuse to answer their questions without a lawyer. Most of the time, they will be very nice in their questioning, hoping that you will cooperate and help to strengthen their case.

Driving off with the car
If the drunk driver gives you consent to do so, you may be able to drive off with the vehicle. This will only be allowed if you are deemed to not be drunk yourself. In most cases, the passenger has also been drinking. After all, why would a person who is sober allow their drunk friend to drive them home? However, if you happen to be below the legal limit, then officers may allow you to drive off with the car. This will save your friend some money, as it will prevent the vehicle from being towed and impounded.

Drunk passengers are stuck
If you happen to be drunk, you’ll be out of luck. Officers will tow the car, as long as it is parked in a public place. If it’s on private property, then the vehicle may be left. Still, officers do not provide rides for drunk passengers who are not under arrest. You’ll need to call an Uber or get someone to pick you up. Later, you can expect to be interviewed by defense counsel in the case. You may also be asked to testify by prosecutors.