Can I still be charged with a DUI while sleeping it off in my car?
“Sleeping It Off” in Your Parked Car is grounds for an Arrest
- Most of us believe that if someone had too much to drink they have the option of “sleeping it off” in their parked car as a way to avoid a DUI arrest. And although this certainly seems logical, in Maryland, a person can still in fact get arrested and charged with a DUI even though they weren’t “driving” their car.
- The reason this can happen is because “driving” for purposes of DUI law does not mean “driving” in the classic sense of the word. “Driving,” for legal purposes, is being in “actual physical control” of a vehicle.
- The issue is if you were in “actual physical control” of your vehicle:
Factor 1: Whether or not the engine is running or the ignition is on
- The strongest factor is whether there is evidence that you started or attempted to start the vehicle’s engine. If you started the engine or attempted to do so, it’s probable you will be found to be in control.
Factor 2: Whether and in what position the person is found in the vehicle
- If you were in the driver’s seat it’s more likely you were in “actual physical control”
- If an officer were to see you in this position, it is reasonable for him or her to assume you got behind the wheel with the intention of driving. He or she has no way of knowing if you passed out while trying to start the car or if you just choose to sleep it off.
- However, the position of the drivers seat is also important. If you are in the driver’s seat, was the seat reclined (indicating asleep and not in control) or positioned upright in driving position?
- If you were in the back seat or a passenger seat that would tend to indicate you were not in control.
Factor 3: Whether the person is awake or asleep
- If you were asleep in the back seat, under a blanket, this is stronger evidence you were not in “actual physical control,” even if the engine was running.
Factor 4: Where the vehicle’s ignition key is located
- Is the key in the ignition–even if the engine isn’t turned on–or somewhere else? Courts are interested in how many steps away the person is from putting the vehicle in motion. If the key is already in the ignition and only needs to be turned to start the engine, that is more indicative of control than if the keys are in a pocket, purse, or anywhere else.
- Just because you have not yet started the car does not mean you did not try it and then later changed your mind. The fact that they keys are actually in the ignition shows that you had every intention of driving when you entered the car, at least in the eyes of the law.
Factor 5: Where the vehicle’s headlights are on
- If headlights are off you are less likely to be in “actual physical control”.
Factor 6: Whether the vehicle is located in the roadway or is legally parked
- The location of the vehicle can also be a determinative factor. A court will look at whether your vehicle was parked legally, or for example stopped in the roadway, where the driver is obligated by law to move the vehicle, and because of this obligation could more readily be seen to be in “actual physical control.” Thus, it is clear from the factors above, that one can be charged and convicted of DUI/ DWI in Maryland without ever actually moving his or her vehicle. Getting into a cars driver’s seat, turning on the engine for heat, and falling asleep while drunk technically, legally, can expose you to alcohol related driving charges.
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