It’s a Friday night. You’ve decided to catch a happy hour with some of your coworkers. The plan is to have a beer and then head home. Plans change. It’s now 1:00 a.m. and suffice to say, you’ve had a few. You decide to do the responsible thing and not drive, but you also have no way of getting home. You make the decision to sleep in your car. It’s cold out, so you turn on the engine to get some heat into the vehicle. You awaken to a police officer tapping on your window, asking you to step out of your car.
While “sleeping it off” in your car is infinitely better than driving while under the influence, both actions could lead to a DUI arrest. The exact wording of the applicable California law:
…A peace officer may, without a warrant, arrest a person when the officer has reasonable cause to believe that the person had been driving while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or any drug…
The key to that statement is ‘reasonable cause to believe that the person had been driving’. If a police officer finds you asleep behind the wheel of a running vehicle and determines that you were drinking, the officer could subject you to a breathalyzer or field sobriety test. If you fail, you could be arrested.
If a police officer suspects you’ve been drinking, any possible evidence that you had been driving, or attempted to drive, could be used as justification for an arrest.
- If your car’s engine, hood, or tires are warm – indicating you were recently driving
- If your car is parked poorly – indicating you parked poorly due to intoxication
- If your vehicle is damaged – indicating you were in a collision due to intoxication
- If your keys are anywhere near the ignition – indicating you were driving or had the intent to drive
- If your gear isn’t in park – indicating you were driving or had the intent to drive
- If you are found in the driver’s seat – indicating you were driving or had the intent to drive
One would think that, following the justifications above, if you decided to sleep in the backseat of your undriven car with the keys in the trunk you could avoid arrest. However, the determination of whether or not to arrest you for DUI will depend completely on the police officer.
If you are facing DUI charges for sleeping in your non-driven vehicle, an experienced DUI defense lawyer will work on your behalf to tell your side of the story. There are many legal defense techniques that can show a judge or jury that your situation was incorrectly assessed, with the goal of introducing enough reasonable doubt to render a not guilty verdict. For a free DUI defense consultation, call the Law Offices of Scott Warmuth today at 888-517-9888.