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What is “Operating” a Motor Vehicle?

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The element of “operating” a Motor Vehicle is not explicitly defined in the Texas Penal Code. Rather, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (the highest criminal court in Texas) has decided what constitutes “operating” in Driving While Intoxicated cases.

The courts have held that in defining “operating” the totality of the circumstances must demonstrate that the defendant took action to affect the functioning of his vehicle that would enable the vehicle’s use.

Thus, any action that is more than mere preparation toward operating the vehicle qualifies as ‘operating’ for DWI.


There is a occasionally a mistaken belief that for a conviction of Driving While Intoxicated the defendant must be driving. As shown above, this is not the case. The opening of a door to sit in a car will likely not fall within the above definition of “operating”; however, turning the car on, even if sitting in the passenger seat to turn on the air conditioner could be decided as “operating.”

The court of criminal appeals does indicate the totality of the circumstances must be evaluated in determining the definition of “operating.” It is crucial to speak with an experienced DWI attorney to discuss the facts of your case to determine the best defense in a DWI case.

Proven Defense by a Former Law Enforcement Officer

Many people who are charged with drunk driving just assume there is no way to fight it. They think the best they can hope for is a smaller fine or a reduction in the amount of time they lose their license. Sometimes, they are able to make a deal for probation instead of jail time. With the right legal counsel, there are other outcomes. What if…

  • Instead of months of suspension, you don’t lose your license at all?
  • Instead of making a deal for probation, you never get convicted?
  • Instead of having a DWI conviction, your record stays clean?
  • Instead of cutting bad deals, you get a vigorous DWI defense?

While every case depends on the facts and circumstances at play, mounting an aggressive defense to DWI charges may be your best option. The San Antonio law firm of Stephen T Bowling, San Antonio DWI Attorneys, handles all drunk driving cases, defending clients in both the criminal proceedings and driver’s license hearings.

Don’t trust just anyone with your DWI defense. Contact the law firm of Stephen T Bowling, San Antonio DWI Lawyers, at 210-404-4444 to schedule your free consultation with a San Antonio DWI lawyer and discover why you have more options than you know of. We accept all major credit cards, including Visa, MasterCard, and Discover.