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How to Sleep It Off in Your Car Without Getting a DUI

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

No one wants to get a DUI. But sometimes we don't realize how intoxicated we are until sitting down behind the wheel.

If you have that moment of clarity, can you just pull over and try and sleep it off? Or can you get charged with DUI, even if you weren't driving at the time?

Take Extra Precautions for the Best Chance at Avoiding a DUI

Even though you tried to do the right thing and not drive, you may have to take a few extra steps to make sure you hopefully don't get arrested. For the best chance at avoiding a DUI, make it clear that you're actually sleeping, and not taking a driving break.

For example, don't sleep in the driver's seat; instead, move to the back seats or at least the passenger seat. Also, don't have your keys on your person. If you place the keys in the trunk, you may be in a better position to convince a police officer that you had no intention of driving.

Out of Luck in Some States

Unfortunately, "drinking and parking" may simply be illegal. While state DUI laws can vary, most states allow for DUI convictions so long as you are "in control of the vehicle." So the "D" in DUI stands for either "Driving" or "could possibly Drive."

Courts have upheld DUI convictions for drivers asleep at the wheel with the car running, asleep across the front seat with their head near the passenger door, and asleep in the front seat with their keys in their pocket.

How Do Courts Determine If You Have Been Driving?

Whether you can be charged with DUI for trying to sleep it off will depend on the DUI laws in your state, but most courts look at a set of factors when trying to determine if you've been driving your car:

  • The location of your vehicle (whether you're on or off the road)
  • Your location (where in your vehicle you're sleeping)
  • The location of the keys in your vehicle (whether they're in or out of the ignition)
  • The operability of your vehicle (whether your vehicle could be driven)

Obviously, the best option is not to get behind the wheel after drinking in the first place. And while it's commendable that you've decided driving while drunk is a bad idea, you may want to take extra precautions (like calling a friend or a cab) to make sure your good intentions aren't met with a DUI conviction.

If your effort to sleep it off didn't work, or you otherwise have been charged with a DUI, you should contact an experienced DUI attorney near you.

Editor's Note, July 14, 2015: This article has been updated to clarify the precautions that should be taken to avoid a DUI.

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