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Can I get a DUI for sleeping in my car while drunk?

On Behalf of | Apr 19, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Imagine going out for a few drinks, but to avoid getting a DUI, you decide to sleep in your car instead of driving home intoxicated. Unfortunately, it is possible for a driver sleeping inside their parked car while drunk to still receive DUI charges.

The importance of probable cause

Cops may sometimes charge drivers based on probable cause. Probable cause applies to circumstances in which it is possible to reasonably believe that a person committed, is committing, or will commit a crime. In DUI cases, cops might charge you if they have reason to infer that you are likely to operate or that you intend to drive your vehicle in an intoxicated state.

The bases for probable cause

If they find you inside your car while drunk, police officers will likely examine several factors that can help them establish probable cause. These factors generally include the following:

  • Location of your keys. If officers find your keys inserted into the ignition, they might believe you intended to operate your car.
  • Your seating location. Police might be more likely to infer that you meant to operate your car if they find you behind the steering wheel than if you sat in the passenger or back seat.
  • State of your engine. In certain situations, sleeping inside a car with a running engine supports probable cause.
  • Your car’s parking location. Where your vehicle is may sometimes support probable cause. For instance, being in a bar’s parking lot might be more suspicious than being in your home’s driveway.

DUI charges based on probable cause present plenty of complex gray areas. Understanding the law and working with an experienced lawyer can help you determine ways to uphold your rights and defend yourself from such charges effectively.