In order for someone to be convicted of DUI in Mississippi, he or she must “drive or otherwise operate” a motor vehicle while under the influence or with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or more.  This article will look at the element of operating a motor vehicle, a seemingly minor but crucial detail in Mississippi drunk driving law.

Driving a motor vehicle is pretty straightforward, so we won’t go into that.  We all know what that means.  But what about operating a vehicle?  How is that different than driving? Mississippi courts have ruled that “operating” a vehicle means being capable of moving it, regardless of whether you actually put it in motion.  It’s going to depend on the facts, but if you’re inside the car and you have possession of the keys, even if you’re in the backseat, that could constitute operation.  Certainly being in the driver’s seat, with the keys in the ignition and the engine off, could constitute operation.

So the lesson is: you don’t have to be driving the car.  You only have to be operating it, which could include many different situations that don’t involve the car actually moving.  But just because you’ve arrested does not mean the case is over.  Patrick Stegall is a Horn Lake, MS DUI lawyer.  If you’ve been charged with drunk driving in Southaven, Olive Branch, Horn Lake, or North Mississippi, Mr. Stegall can fight for a dismissal of your charge.  Being arrested does not mean guilty.    Call him at (901) 205-9894 or email him at

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