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Getting a DUI for Trying to "Sleep It Off"

Can You Get a DUI in California for “Sleeping It Off” in Your Car?

When faced with driving after consuming alcohol, many choose the responsible route of "sleeping it off." This prioritizes safety by acknowledging that alcohol impairs judgment, reaction time, and coordination – all crucial for operating a vehicle.

However, you can face DUI charges if you are found behind the wheel while intoxicated, even if the vehicle is immobile. While even a short nap can significantly improve alertness, reducing the risk of accidents and potential harm to oneself and others on the road, law enforcement can make an arrest if they have cause to believe you:

  • have been operating the vehicle while drunk,
  • may cause injury to yourself, others, or property if not arrested, or
  • have been involved in a crash.

DUIs & Physical Control of a Vehicle

When it comes to DUI laws, a common misconception is that one must be actively driving to face charges. However, the legal concept of "physical control" can extend to individuals who are merely in the driver's seat of a parked vehicle, with the keys accessible.

This means that if you're found by law enforcement in a state that could allow you to operate the vehicle while intoxicated, you could be at risk of a DUI charge. If arrested while trying to sleep it off, the courts look at factors such as the location of the keys, the position of the person in the vehicle, and whether the engine is running.

For instance, if you're sleeping in the backseat with the keys in the glove compartment, some jurisdictions may deem you not in physical control, while others may still consider the proximity of the keys as a risk. Officers may also consider the following proof that you have been operating your vehicle (even if you are asleep behind the wheel):

  • Warm hood or engine
  • Car in gear
  • Warm tires
  • Fresh tire treads
  • Headlights that are on or hot

Alternatives to Sleeping in Your Car

Fortunately, there are several safe transportation options available to those who have been drinking and need to get home. Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft provide convenient and affordable alternatives to driving under the influence. Taxis, although sometimes more expensive, offer another reliable option. In many cities, public transportation runs late into the night, providing yet another way to travel without getting behind the wheel. For those who plan ahead, arranging for a designated driver—someone who abstains from drinking to drive others safely—is an excellent strategy.

These alternatives not only help you avoid the legal risks associated with DUI charges but also contribute to the overall safety of the roads. By choosing a safe mode of transportation, you're ensuring not only your well-being but also that of other drivers and pedestrians. The convenience of these services often outweighs the cost, especially when considering the potential legal and financial consequences of a DUI charge. It's a small price to pay for peace of mind and public safety.

Pre-planning is key to avoiding the dilemma of where to sleep after consuming alcohol. Before heading out, it's wise to consider how much you'll be drinking and determine a safe way to return home. This could involve researching local public transportation schedules, downloading and setting up ride-sharing apps, or identifying a friend who agrees to be the designated driver. Additionally, you might arrange accommodations close to the venue or even within walking distance to eliminate the need for driving altogether.

Experienced DUI Defense Attorneys

Backed by over a century of collective experience, the attorneys at Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC have helped countless clients fight DUI charges. Whether this is a first-time or subsequent offense, our team can provide fierce and reliable counsel.

Get started on your case by calling (949) 251-0330.