What does “operating” a vehicle mean in Indiana?

To begin, it is important to understand that you do not need to be driving to be “operating” a vehicle under Indiana law. So what does qualify as “operating?” The "operator" of a motor vehicle is, in pertinent part, "a person ... who ... drives or is in actual physical control of a motor vehicle upon a highway...." I.C. 9-13-2-118(a)(1). The long and the short of it is that the analysis is very fact-specific, and the below is a summary of what courts have said qualifies as “operating” a vehicle in Indiana.

Being in a parked car, even with the keys in the ignition and the engine running, is not enough to show “operation.” The State must present some evidence, either directly or circumstantially, that the suspect actually “operated” the vehicle. For example, courts have held that there is sufficient evidence of “operating” where suspects have been found asleep or sitting in a traffic lane or a highway median.

The State must prove that you “operated” a vehicle to prove OWI. If you think that there may be problems with the operation element of your OWI case, call attorney Rebecca Gray today 24/7 for a free consultation. She will review your case and file the appropriate motions on your behalf. 

✋ If the State cannot prove that you “operated” a motor vehicle, your case may be dismissed.