Can I Be Charged with a DUI as a Passenger?

You’re at a party with friends, but it’s time to go home. Out of all of you, your friend has had the least to drink and offers to drive you home, but things don’t go as planned. As you watch the flashing lights in the rearview mirror, you can’t help but think, “will I get in trouble because of my friend’s DUI?”

The answer? Technically, yes. If you live in West Virginia, you could face criminal charges for being a passenger. Keep reading for more information.

The WV Supreme Court

A case that went through the supreme court in 2015 involves a similar circumstance to the anecdote in the previous section. Jason F. Uhl was at a casino in Charleston with friends Robert Lee Morris and Randy Spurlock.

As anyone would do on a night out, the men drank to celebrate and made their way through the casino. When it was time to drive home, Uhl, Morris, and Spurlock had a problem: who was going to drive them all home?

Uhl realized he’d had more to drink than anticipated, and Morris volunteered to drive. During the trial, Uhl told the court that Morris seemed fine to him, and he had no question about whether Morris was capable of driving.

The three men got into Uhl’s vehicle and started their journey home. Soon enough, however, police caught the trio on Interstate 64 going over 20 miles over the speed limit and pulled them over. Not only did the arresting officer smell alcohol, but Morris failed the breathalyzer and field sobriety tests, and there were empty cans of beer in the car.

The court found Uhl guilty of knowingly lending his car to a drunk driver, and the DMV suspended his license.


Uhl’s case sets a precedent for future cases and teaches us an important lesson: look at the fine print. Uhl wasn’t found guilty simply because he was a passenger – he was found guilty of lending his car to a drunk driver.

This distinction is important because not everyone knowingly lends their vehicle to a drunk driver or rides in their car. The car could belong to the driver or belong to someone else altogether. Regardless of those details, the crucial part of the Uhl ruling is that to be found guilty; the passenger must know that the driver is drunk and lend them their own car.

So, to sum it up: You cannot be charged if the car is not yours and if you do not know that the driver is intoxicated.

Sound Strategies from a Fierce Defender

West Virginia DUI attorney Harley Wagner knows DUIs. He has dedicated his legal career to drunk driving law and has written the book on DUI defense in WV. A local himself, Wagner understands the needs of his community and is passionate about helping those who need an advocate.

Criminal charges leave a mark on your permanent record, your family, and your future. Some individuals become at risk of losing their jobs because of a DUI or may lose custody of their children. Don’t let a DUI destroy your life. Choose an attorney who can fight for you – choose Harley Wagner.

Schedule a consultation with The Wagner Law Firm today!