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Name: In re F.H.
Case #: A127491
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 02/25/2011

A passenger who grabs the steering wheel and thereby takes sufficient control of the vehicle to cause a crash is “driving” the car within the meaning of the Vehicle Code. Appellant was riding in a car driven by her boyfriend. Appellant was drunk and they were arguing. Appellant grabbed the steering wheel and turned it, which caused the driver to lose control of the car and crash into a ditch. The juvenile court declared appellant a court ward for driving under the influence causing injury. (Veh. Code, sec. 23153, subds. (b) and (c).) Appellant argued the evidence was insufficient to support the findings because she was not “driving” within the meaning of the statute. The court concluded a passenger is “driving” when she assumes physical control of a vehicle and causes it to move. Vehicle Code section 305 defines a “driver” as one “who drives or is in actual physical control of a vehicle.” CALCRIM No. 2241 explains “[a} person drives a vehicle when he or she intentionally causes it to move by exercising actual physical control over it. The person must cause the vehicle to move, but the movement may be slight.” The court also relied on out of state authority which was consistent with these definitions and which rejected the notion that a person must have control of every ancillary device to be a driver. Here, the minor took the steering wheel and turned it, causing the car to change direction and crash. This is sufficient evidence of driving.