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You Can Get A DUI While Sleeping In Your Vehicle

Imagine you're out on the town and you wind up having a few too many drinks. You're still aware of the risks and penalties that come with driving while intoxicated, so you decide to sleep it off in your car until the morning. Nevertheless, there's still a good chance that you could wake up to a DUI charge. To keep this from happening to you, you'll want to read up on the following information.

You Don't Have to Be Driving to Get a DUI

A common misconception is that the only way you can get a DUI is if you're actually driving on a road while intoxicated and you're pulled over by a law enforcement official. Contrary to popular belief, being stationary in your own vehicle is no guarantee that you'll escape scrutiny from the authorities.

Police officers are obligated to conduct welfare checks on drivers who appear to be passed out in their vehicle. This way, officers can render assistance if the driver is unconscious due to a medical condition. It's during this course of investigation that an officer can discover that the occupant is actually intoxicated, usually through common indicators such as slurred speech and the strong odor of alcohol.

Afterwards, the responding officer may look for any indication that you had control over your vehicle while you were intoxicated. For instance, the officer may look for keys in the ignition or the fact that you were sitting in the driver's seat while you were sleeping. The presence of open alcohol containers may also establish intent as far as the officer is concerned, even if you weren't driving when you consumed the beverages.

What If You're in the Back Seat or Passenger Seat?

Crawling in the back seat or sliding over to the passenger seat seems like a smart idea. After all, you can't get a DUI if you don't have immediate access to the driver controls, right? As it turns out, that still might not enough to prevent a DUI charge.

Even if the responding officer finds you in the back seat or passenger seat, he or she can still point to other evidence to establish that you have or may have had control of the vehicle while intoxicated. This includes a warm engine bay or the presence of an ignition key or key fob on your person.

Some jurisdictions even have laws that prohibit altogether the act of sleeping in your vehicle while intoxicated. This means that even if you don't have any intent on driving, you can still be charged with a DUI offense even when your vehicle is parked and you're not actually in the driver's seat.

What If You're a Passenger in Someone Else's Vehicle?

Being a passenger in someone else's vehicle may give you a little protection, but you're still at risk of being charged with DUI. Upon discovering you're merely a passenger, the responding officer may want to know where the registered owner is and if you were actually driven to your present location.

As always, the officer will also look for any signs that you have or had control of the vehicle. So if a friend decides to leave his or her keys so you can doze off to the radio, that unwitting gesture of kindness could cost you dearly.

You're Better Off Taking a Taxi

In the grand scheme of things, sleeping it off in your car may not be the best way to prevent a DUI charge. Instead, you may want to arrange for a taxi cab or a trusted friend to pick you up and drop you off at your destination. You can always come back for your vehicle when you've sobered up. 

If you've been charged with a DUI, contact an attorney at a law firm like Thomas & Associates, PC for assistance.