In every part of the country, driving while intoxicated is illegal. However, that doesn’t stop people from driving to the bar to have a few drinks from time to time. We all understand that a DUI is not good, so some might think that they can just sleep in their car and be ready to drive once they wake up. Unfortunately, just because it may seem like the smart move at the time, doesn't mean it's actually legal for you to do.
Let’s go over what the law says about sleeping in your car while you are intoxicated.
Can You Get a DUI While Trying to Sleep it Off?
The legal answer to this question is yes. Even if you're not intending to drive, you can get slapped with a DUI.
In the majority of states, it's against the law to be in physical control of a car while you're under the influence. You don't necessarily have to be driving to be considered in control of the vehicle. The goal of this is to stop drunk driving before it happens.
Critics complain that there's nothing wrong with sleeping in your car while drunk, but proponents will argue that it can too easily lead to drunk driving. After all, a drunk person sleeping in the front seat with their keys in the ignition is just a few movements away from making a dangerous decision.
Let's dive deeper into what things a jury will have to consider.
Where You Sleep
Although it might seem silly to some, and the intention is ultimately the same, where you sleep in the car may matter. If you chose to sleep in the driver's seat, you're going to raise your chances of being convicted. The officer has no way of knowing if you fell asleep while trying to start your car, or if you purposely chose to sleep there.
If you find yourself wanting to sleep in your car, always choose the backseat.
Where the Keys Are
Just because the car wasn't started, doesn't mean you didn't try to start it, or won’t try to start it in a few minutes. If your keys are found in the ignition, it shows that you likely intended to drive, at least it does to law enforcement.
If your keys are in another seat, or better yet in the trunk, you'll have a much easier time convincing the jury that you had no intention of driving the car. The further the keys are from both you and the ignition, the better your chance of beating the DUI charge is.
A good DUI attorney will be able to use these little technicalities to strengthen your case.
Intent to Drive
Any appearance that you had the intent to drive will hurt your case. If you leave the lights on, the motor running, keys in the ignition, if you're sitting in the driver's seat, or have the keys in your hand, you may very well get a DUI.
This doesn't just happen to people who are sleeping either. If you're drunk and eating food from a drive-thru in your car, you can be arrested with a DUI. Officers today are checking fast-food parking lots as much as they're checking out night clubs and bars.
In some states, like California, law enforcement needs proof that you were actually driving. This is not the case in other states however, including in Illinois.
In order to protect yourself, you need to make it clear that your intent is to just sleep in your car. You should do your best to not give the impression that you're just taking a break from driving.
How a DUI Lawyer Can Help
If you're handed a DUI by a police officer, the jury will look at all of the circumstances of your case. They are going to want to know if the intoxicated motorist was actually in physical control of the vehicle.
Generally, the closer the impaired motorist is to being able to start the car, the more likely they'll get convicted. A drunk person found sleeping in the backseat of their car with the engine off will have a better chance of beating the case than a person found in the front seat with their head on the steering wheel.
The court will look at where the ignition key was when you were arrested, what seat you were found in, if you were alone, and if you had the ability to operate the car. A DUI lawyer can help you build a solid defense.
They will comb over the evidence and see if the arresting officer missed any specifics or made any improper judgments. A good lawyer can also help get your license reinstated.
Unfortunately, it seems like there are laws on the book that discourage people from sleeping off the effects of alcohol. This can even be seen as encouraging people to risk driving home in hopes that they don't get arrested for being found in their cars, but as frustrating as it may seem, the law is the law.
The Importance of Knowing About Drunk Driving Laws
Being arrested with a DUI charge should not be taken lightly, and even if you're arrested while trying to sleep it off in your car, there's no guarantee that you're going to beat the case. You risk having your license taken away, facing jail time, and paying hefty fines.
In order to avoid this, make sure that you take proper precautions to help show that you have no intention of driving while intoxicated. If you still do get arrested, it's important that you hire an experienced and reliable attorney who can help assist you.
Are you looking to get your license reinstated? Contact us today and see how we can help.