Many years ago there was not a statutory definition of operate and court decisions broadly interpreted the meaning of the word in OVI and DUS cases to include being in a position to move a car with the keys in the ignition.
About 20 years ago the legislature enacted a physical control statute and added a definition of the word operate under R.C. 4511.01 (HHH). It defined operate as to cause or have caused movement of a vehicle. Thus, for purposes of R.C. Chapter 4511 it became clear that movement (past or present) while under the influence was required to prove OVI.
At the same time the legislature enacted the definition of operate applicable to OVI and enacted the physical control statute, it created R.C. Chapter 4510. That Chapter includes various DUS offenses, including driving under an OVI suspension in violation of R.C. 4510.14.
Unfortunately, the aforementioned definition of operate was limited to R.C. Chapters 4511 and 4513, and Chapter 4510 did not define operate.
Along came Ms. Wilson in State v. Wilson, 2022-Ohio-3202. She and some friends got thrown out of a party. They decided to sleep in a car parked nearby. Ms. Wilson was drunk and under an OVI suspension. The police came by and saw the car running but parked, Ms. Wilson in the driver’s seat, and the occupants asleep. There was no evidence that she had moved the car (while under the influence). Ms. Wilson was cited for driving under an OVI suspension under R.C. 4510.14 and convicted.
The First District Court of Appeals reversed, and the state appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio. As stated by the Supreme Court, Wilson’s offense prohibits a person “from operating any motor vehicle upon the public roads or highways within this this state during the period of the suspension.” The Court concluded that the statutory definition of operate applicable to OVI superseded the older Court supplied definitions. It determined that the statute was persuasive to require movement of the vehicle for the offense of driving under an OVI suspension. It affirmed the Court of Appeals.