Can I Get a DUI for Sleeping in My Car?

Sometimes when people have had too much to drink, one alternative is to sleep in their car until they’re sober again. However, it is possible to get a DUI for “sleeping it off” in the car, especially if law enforcement finds indications that an individual may have been drinking.

California Vehicle Code section 23152 states: “(a) It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle. (b) It is unlawful for any person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle.” While this statute doesn’t mention anything about receiving a DUI charge while being intoxicated in a parked vehicle, a person can still be charged with one depending on the circumstantial evidence.

This type of evidence is sufficient to establish proof of the volitional movement of a car. According to the California DMV case of Mercer v. Department of Motor Vehicles (1991) 53 Cal 3rd 753, the court ruled that you can get a DUI even if the car is not moving due to circumstantial evidence that proves the defendant had driven prior to parking the vehicle.

Circumstantial evidence includes the following:

  • Warm engine
  • Warm tires
  • Keys in the ignition
  • The vehicle’s gear is in drive
  • Sleeping in the driver’s seat
  • A car in any part of the highway, including slightly over the shoulder line
  • A vehicle damaged and next to the scene of an accident

The main defense to a DUI if you were arrested while in a parked car is a lack of proof that you were actually driving. If a person decides to sleep in his or her car after drinking, it is better to be in the back seat, store the keys somewhere not within reach, have the engine off, and park in a legal space. All of these factors make the case more difficult for the officers to prove you were driving at some point.

However, our Murrieta DUI lawyers at Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich advise you to avoid this situation at all costs. Instead of sleeping in your car, request a ride from Uber or Lyft, or contact a designated driver to pick you up.

For more information, contact us and request a free consultation today.


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