Driving on highways and other public property while intoxicated is illegal in every state. However, in many jurisdictions, it’s also unlawful to drive on private property while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
How DUI laws apply to private property and the types of private property that state statutes cover vary by jurisdiction. This article provides an overview of DUI laws that prohibit impaired driving on private property.
Some state DUI statutes apply to private property by prohibiting driving a vehicle while intoxicated "everywhere in the state."
For example, in some states, it’s unlawful for an intoxicated person to drive a vehicle:
Courts have interpreted this type of language to encompass all areas of the state where a vehicle can be driven. Therefore, in states with these broad DUI statutes, it’s illegal to drive a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs anywhere within the boundaries of the state, regardless of whether the property is public, private, or open to the public.
All DUI laws apply to public property, which typically includes highways, roads, streets, thoroughfares, bridges, and the berm or shoulder of all roadways. However, in some states, certain private property is included in the definition of public areas.
In these jurisdictions, DUI laws generally apply to specific types of private property by making it unlawful for an intoxicated person to drive a vehicle:
State laws vary, but to determine whether the private property is open to the public for purposes of DUI offenses, factors that courts typically consider are whether:
DUI laws that apply to private property open to the public are usually broad enough to cover parking lots where the public is invited for business or entertainment purposes. As a result, in most jurisdictions, the parking lots of restaurants, shopping malls, schools, office buildings, hospitals, and parks are open to the public for DUI purposes. Additionally, DUI laws usually apply to the parking lots and common areas of multi-family residential dwellings such as trailer parks, apartment complexes, and condominiums.
On the other hand, the statutory language of “open to the public” doesn’t typically cover the driveways of private residences. Even though social and business guests are allowed to use private driveways, the use is generally limited to a few privileged individuals.