Can You Get A DUI For Sleeping It Off In Your Car?

1 August 2016
 Categories: Law, Articles


One question that's commonly asked when it comes to DUI offenses is whether someone can be arrested for sleeping in their vehicle if they decide they're simply too drunk to drive home. As it turns out, having that moment of clarity behind the wheel may not prevent you from being arrested even if you decide not to drive.

Establishing Care or Control

Many people incorrectly assume that a person has to be pulled over for actively driving under the influence in order to be arrested for DUI. However, that's not the only way for a DUI arrest to occur. In many cases, all it takes is for a concerned police officer to investigate someone sleeping in their vehicle to get the ball rolling. If a police officer sees someone sleeping behind the wheel, they're essentially obligated to check whether or not that person needs medical assistance. If the officer suspects that person is intoxicated, the investigation shifts from a standard welfare check to a DUI investigation.

Whether or not you're arrested for DUI may depend on the officer's ability to establish care or control -- meaning your ability to set the vehicle in motion while you're intoxicated. If you're found on the side of the road in the driver's seat, the officer could determine that you were in control of the vehicle. If you're in a parking lot, the officer may check to see if the keys are still in the ignition or if the engine is still warm. Open alcohol containers inside of the vehicle can also establish the driver's intent, even if the alcohol wasn't consumed until the driver stopped.

Being intoxicated as a passenger in someone else's car may not shield you from being charged with DUI. The officer may ask if you were driven to your current location, as well as the whereabouts of the driver or registered owner. If the driver leaves the keys in the vehicle, the officer could decide that you potentially have control of the vehicle and subsequently place you under arrest for DUI. At that point, it's up to you to prove in court that you weren't in control of the vehicle in any shape or form.

Ways to Reduce Your Risk

Keep in mind that some states explicitly make the very act of sleeping it off in your car illegal, even if you have no intent of driving while intoxicated. This means you could be charged with a "parked car DUI" offense. In more lenient states, however, there are a few ways you can reduce your risk of being charged if you decide to do the right thing and stay off the road:

  • Don't sleep it off in the driver's seat. Instead, you'll want to move to the passenger seat or back seats.
  • Make sure to turn the engine off. Having the engine turned on or the keys in the ignition for any reason could establish intent, as far as the officer is concerned.
  • Don't keep your keys on your person. Officers may see it as intent to drive while drunk. Instead, you should put your keys where you won't have immediate access to them, such as the trunk or glove box.

Of course, the best way to reduce your risk of being charged with DUI is to simply refrain from driving if you intend on enjoying a few drinks. Instead, have a taxi or a friend as a designated driver take you home after you're done. This way, you can be sure you'll enjoy your night out without having the specter of a DUI conviction lingering over your head on the way home.

If you have been charges with a DUI, check out websites like for additional information.