The Orange County Sheriff’s Department found an intoxicated man asleep inside of his parked vehicle which was located in the middle of Aliso Niguel High School.
According to the Lt. Dan Dwyer of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Alexander Nixon, 23, of Las Vegas was arrested last week on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol when he was found asleep in his 2014 Dodge sedan which was parked inside of Aliso Niguel High School in Orange County.
Upon waking Nixon, officers suspected that he was under the influence. Nixon then told officers that he had been drinking before attempting to drive home. Nixon also told officers that he thought that he was in a parking lot in Santa Ana.
Nixon field sobriety tests and was subsequently arrested on suspicion of a California DUI.
Although law enforcement said that the car was located in a back lot of the school, media photographs of the scene showed the car inside of an enclosed walkway leading to an outside seating area.
Had Nixon not confessed to driving, his situation raises an interesting question: Can prosecutors prove that a person drove (which is required for a California DUI) if the person was not seen driving, but their vehicle could have only reached its location through driving?
To be arrested, charged, and convicted of a California DUI, the prosecutor needs to prove that the defendant actually drove the vehicle. And California Courts have held that even slight movement will suffice to meet this requirement.
Movement of the vehicle can be proven through circumstantial evidence, meaning evidence that creates an inference of vehicle movement.
Such was the case in People v. Wilson (1985) 176 Cal.App.3d Supp. 1. The defendant in that case was found asleep in his car which was blocking the 60 freeway in Los Angeles.
The court concluded that “there was ample evidence from which the jury could have inferred that the defendant had been driving his vehicle on the public highway at a time when he was intoxication. From the combination of circumstances – defendant’s sitting in a vehicle in the center of the street–behind the wheel–engine running–lights on, it can be inferred that defendant must have placed himself in such position, and that he accomplished this by driving the car to the place at which he was found.”
The defendant in Wilson argued that it was possible that a friend drove him to the location and placed him in the driver’s seat. He also argued it was possible that the car was already in that position, he intended to drive it, but fell asleep before he could do so.
The Court rejected the defendant’s arguments stating, “It seems unlikely that in either situation the car would have been left parked in the middle of the street, straddling the traffic lanes and facing generally at right angles to the street. Suffice it to say that the jury apparently discarded these possibilities as being unreasonable and adopted the more likely deduction that defendant had driven himself to the area and was then unable to continue."
With that in mind, it seems unlikely prosecutors would even need Nixon’s confession that he drove to convict him of a California DUI. How else would his car have ended up in the middle of a high school?