Can you really get charged with Criminal Vehicular Operation (CVO) while sitting in the passenger seat?
While most people know that they shouldn’t get behind the wheel after having too much to drink, there are other things to be aware of as well. In a recent case, State v. Henderson, a group of people were out at a bar drinking except the driver who remained sober. After they left the bar and were driving to a friend’s house and the Defendant was arguing with the sober driver about directions. The driver missed the turn and the Defendant who was sitting in the passenger seat, grabbed and jerked the steering wheel towards himself. The driver lost control of the vehicle despite having both hands on the wheel and as result, the car flipped upside down and three victims received great bodily harm. Defendant was charged with Criminal Vehicular Operation of a Motor Vehicle.
The Defendant appealed but the Court found that there was sufficient evidence presented at trial which supported the district court’s finding that the Defendant’s actions constituted “operation of a motor vehicle” under Minn. Stat. § 609.21 and he was charged with multiple counts of Criminal Vehicular Operation.
This is not the only case of its kind. There have been several other cases in which defendants have been found to be “in physical control” of the vehicle even when they were not sitting in their car with it running.