Can you get a DUI if you sleep in your parked car? The legal answer is yes, you can get charged with a DUI-related offense with no proof of driving, with no keys in the ignition, or even sometimes outside of your car. The proceeding information of this type of driving under the influence charge is outlined below, as well as legal tips how to avoid a “DUI while parked” conviction if arrested.
Even if your car doesn’t start, the law under the Supreme Court ruled you can get a DUI without driving and while the car is not moving or parked. Most of us have heard stories from our parents, friends, or relatives about going out “back in the day” and needing to sleep if off in the car. In fact, many of us may have done something similar when we were younger during a vacation or weekend away. While it seems harmless, today, you can actually get a DUI while parked even if you never started or moved the vehicle.
You may be asking yourself how this is possible, but it happens more than one would think. When an officer sees someone in his or her car, even if it is not moving, and he or she makes the determination that this person had the intent to drive, he or she may end up being cited for DUI.
Reasons for DUI While Parked
There are a couple of reasons why an officer may determine that an individual should be cited for DUI when they are in a parked car:
- Asleep in the driver’s seat
- Car keys in the ignition
- Appearance of intent to drive
- Why Sleeping In A Parked Car Could Result In A DUI Arrest
1. Asleep in the Driver’s Seat
You had the right intention;unfortunately, you chose the driver’s seat to sleep off your overindulgent night. If an officer were to see you in this position, it is reasonable for him or her to assume you got behind the wheel with the intention of driving. He or she has no way of knowing if you passed out while trying to start the car or if you just choose to sleep it off.
2. Car Keys in the Ignition
Just because you have not yet started the car does not mean you did not try it and then later changed your mind. The fact that they keys are actually in the ignition shows that you had every intention of driving when you entered the car, at least in the eyes of the law.
3. Appearance of Intent to Drive
What if you tried to start the car and then decided to sleep it off. Maybe you realized after starting the car that you needed to rethink this and take a nap to sober up a bit. You even moved out of the front driver’s seat to show that you did not intend to go anywhere. Unfortunately, you left the keys in the ignition (as mentioned above) and left your lights on. Even though you are in the passenger or back seat, an officer can make a reasonable assumption that you had the intent of driving, and can therefore site you for a DUI.
4. Why “Sleeping It Off” in Your Parked Car Could Be Grounds for a DUI Arrest
Many drivers mistakenly believe that people can be arrested, charged, and then convicted of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) for sleeping in their parked vehicle while they are intoxicated. However simply being in a vehicle while drunk or even high on Marijuana, can be enough for a person to be charged with a DUI or a DWI offense. The truth is some states that are considered “domain and control” states may have provisions for this type of law, but other states, like California, require individuals to be operating the vehicle in order for them to be charged with DUI.
Every crime, including DUI/DWI, has what are called “elements.” Elements are different factors that must be present in order for individuals to be successfully convicted of a crime. In the state of California, for example, being in operation of the vehicle is an “element” for being charged and convicted of DUI. In 1991, the Supreme Court in California held that the word “drive” in the state’s DUI laws meant offenders needed to have volitionally and willingly moved the vehicle.
While this may indicate that individuals cannot be charged with DUI unless the car is in motion, this is actually not the case. Through the use of circumstantial evidence, it is possible for a prosecutor to prove that an individual drove the vehicle without the arresting officer actually witnessing the vehicle in motion. This is most often proved when the office locates the vehicle at or close to the scene of an accident or if officers find the vehicle in the middle of the road with the driver inside.
However, in cases where the officers find individuals asleep in their vehicles while intoxicated but there is no evidence the vehicle has been moved or operated recently, the officers cannot arrest those individuals or charge them with DUI. An example of this situation would be when officers find an intoxicated individual asleep in a vehicle parked in a parking lot or driveway. In these cases, however, it is possible for the individual to be arrested for being drunk in public.
As mentioned, this is an appropriate scenario for states that are not “domain and control” states, such as the state of California. In states that are considered “domain and control,” individuals who are found asleep in a parked vehicle while intoxicated are considered to have “domain and control” of the vehicle with the ability to operate it, which means they can be arrested and charged with DUI or DWI offense in that case.
Fighting DUI Charges
Cases such as these can be complex and if you want to fight the charges successfully, you should hire a local DUI attorney to help prove your case. However by filling out the free DUI arrest review form, your arrest details will be examined online for free by an experienced DUI specialist counsel with legal tips for how to defeat the charges effectively, with essential proactive steps to take before going to court.
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