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Can I Get A DUI Sleeping It Off In My Car?

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Many times people ask criminal defense attorneys whether they can be arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) if they were not driving their car. The simple answer to that is, yes. However, it depends on the facts and circumstances. Particularly, it depends on where you and your keys were found in your vehicle.

One situation is where a person leaves a bar or restaurant after having too much to drink and decides to wait and sober up before attempting to drive home. He or she sits in the driver’s seat, with the keys in the ignition and falls asleep listening to the radio. The engine does not have to be running.

The next thing they know is there is a police officer shinning a flashlight through the driver’s side window and asking the individual to step out of the vehicle. The usually occurs when a police officer notices a car in an empty parking lot, parked on the street or on the side of the road with a person sitting or slumped over in the driver’s seat. At this point, the officer becomes suspicious, investigates the situation and determines that the individual has been drinking and their ability to drive is impaired due to alcohol.

Under these circumstances, this individual would end up being charged with a misdemeanor DUI. How can that happen when they weren’t driving the car? The determining factor is whether an individual is in physical control of the vehicle. By sitting in the driver’s seat and having the keys in the ignition, whether the engine is on or off, an individual is normally considered to have physical control of a vehicle. The idea is that given these facts, an individual has the ability to put their vehicle in motion while under the influence.

Even if a person is sleeping it off in the back seat can be a bad idea, especially if the keys are in the ignition. A reasonable argument can be made by the prosecutor that an individual under these circumstances could easily have physical control of the vehicle and set it in motion. Sleeping it off in the back seat of a car is questionable but there are certainly sufficient ways to argue that an individual under those circumstances did not have physical control. This is better than being up front and near the controls.

Remember, the determining factors are where an individual is in the vehicle and where the keys are. Being anywhere in the front seat or in the driver’s seat is a bad place to be if an individual has been drinking. It is important that the ignition keys remain in his or her pocket or purse and away from the ignition. They could also be in the glove compartment or the console. Essentially, the keys should never be in the ignition and the engine should never be running.

For your own safety and the safety of others, have someone drive you home or get a cab.


If you or a family member have been charged with a DUI, it is very important that you seek the advice of a California criminal defense attorney who is experienced in handling DUI cases.

Ronald N. Hoffman and Hoffman & Associates are skilled criminal defense attorneys who have been helping thousands of California residents for 36 years. We have a proven track record and we will fight for a dismissal, a not guilty verdict or a reduced charge in your case.

Contact us through our website or call us direct at (323) 655-3900 for a no obligation consultation.

Related Blog Posts:s

When Can I Reasonably Expect my Los Angeles DUI Case to be Concluded?
, Los Angeles DUI Lawyer Blog, December 11, 2012

Can I get Arrested for Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana?, Los Angeles DUI Lawyer Blog, December 4, 2012

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