What constitutes "Operation" or "Driving" to be convicted under the Kentucky DUI Statute?

Various states across the country have their own definitions for a person’s operation of a motor vehicle for purposes of the DUI statutes. Some states define it as “driving,” while others, like Kentucky, define it as “operation,” and “actual physical control.”

In Kentucky, the DUI statute KRS 189a.010(1) begins as follows: “A person shall not operate or be in physical control of a motor vehicle anywhere in this state[.]” That is quite vague. What do those words mean? Well, unluckily, Kentucky courts have not defined those terms, but have given us guidelines as to what would constitute physical control and operation.

The controlling case is Wells v. Commonwealth, 709 S.W.2d 847 (Ky. App. 1986). It outlines the four factors a court must look at in order to determine whether or not a person operated or was in actual physical control of a motor vehicle. The factors are:

  1. Whether or not the person in the vehicle was asleep or awake;
  2. Whether or not the motor was running;
  3. The location of the vehicle and all of the circumstances bearing on how the vehicle arrived at that location; and
  4. The intent of the person behind the wheel.

Basically, it is a totality of the circumstances analysis. The court will look at the factors above along with any other facts and circumstances, and determine whether or not that constitutes “operation” or “physical control.”

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