Difference Between 'operate' and 'Drive' According to Vehicle and Traffic Law
"Operation of a motor vehicle must be shown beyond a reasonable doubt to convict a person pursuant to VTL 1192.
In People v. Dalton, 176 Misc.2d 211, 673 N.Y.S.2d 828, the Court distinguished between "operate" and "drive" in the context of VTL 1192:
"Defendant also contends that the complainant never observed him drive the vehicle and therefore lied in his deposition.
Neither the record nor law supports this contention.
It is well established that the term "operate" as used in the Vehicle and Traffic Law is broader than the term "drive" ( Matter of Prudhomme v. Hults, 27 A.D.2d 234, 236, 278 N.Y.S.2d 67).
The New York State Criminal Jury Instructions for Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1992 state the "operation" of a motor vehicle is established upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had recently driven the vehicle or by such proof that he was seated at the wheel, with the motor running and with a present intention of placing the vehicle in operation" (3 CJI[NY] VTL 1192,  & , at 2306: see also, People v. Totman, 208 A.D.2d 970, 617 N.Y.S.2d 234; People v. Khan, 168 Misc.2d 192, 638 N.Y.S.2d 858; People v. Edwards, 158 Misc.2d 615, 601 N.Y.S.2d 539).
In People v. Page, 266 A.D.2d 733, 698 N.Y.S.2d 774, the Court defined the term "operate" as follows:
"The term "operate" as used in Vehicle and Traffic Law 1192 is broader that the term "drive" (see, Matter of Prudhomme v. Hults, 27 A.D.2d 234, 236, 278 N.Y.S.2d 67).
The term "operate" extends to include situations where a person begins to use "the mechanism of the automobile for the purpose of putting the automobile in motion even though he does not move it" (People v. Marriott, 37 A.D.2d 868, 325 N.Y.S.2d 177)."
See also, People v. Marriott, 37 A.D.2d 868, 325 N.Y.S.2d 177, wherein the Third Department stated:
" the statutory prohibition is against operating as well as driving an automobile while intoxicated; There is a recognized distinction between the two functions (cf. Vehicle & Traffic Law, 127).
"Operates" is a broader concept. (Matter of Prudhomme v. Hults, 27 A.D.2d 234, 236, 278 N.Y.S.2d 67. 69.)
The trial court correctly charged the jury that a person operates a motor vehicle when he begins to use the mechanism of the automobile for the purpose of putting the automobile in motion even though he does not move it. (Matter of Prudhomme v. Hults, supra.)"