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Do Not Sleep Off a DUI in Your Car: Understanding the Legal Risks

Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs is a serious offense that can lead to significant legal consequences, including hefty fines, license suspension, and even imprisonment. But what happens when you decide not to drive and instead sleep off your intoxication in your car? Surprisingly, this decision, often made with good intentions to avoid driving while impaired, can still lead to a DUI charge.

The Misconception of “Sleeping it Off” Safely in Your Car

Many people believe that by not actively driving and choosing to sleep in their parked car, they are making a responsible decision that keeps them and others safe. However, from a legal standpoint, you can still be charged with a DUI if you are found in your vehicle while intoxicated. The key issue here is the concept of “physical control” of the vehicle.

Understanding “Physical Control” and DUI Laws

Physical control means you have the ability to operate the vehicle, regardless of whether you are actually driving. In many jurisdictions, if you are intoxicated and in the driver’s seat of a car, with the keys accessible, you are considered to be in physical control of the vehicle. This means the law views you as capable of starting the car and driving away at any moment, posing a potential risk to public safety.

How to Avoid a DUI Charge When Intoxicated

If you find yourself in a situation where you are too impaired to drive, the safest legal option is to avoid entering your vehicle entirely. Consider alternatives such as:

  • Calling a taxi or a rideshare service to get home safely.
  • Arranging for a sober friend or family member to pick you up.
  • Staying where you are, if possible, until you are sober.

If you absolutely must rest in your car, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of a DUI charge, although these are not foolproof:

  1. Stay in the Backseat: Avoid the driver’s seat. Being in the backseat can help demonstrate that you had no intent to drive.
  2. Keep the Keys Away: Place the keys in a location that is not easily accessible, such as the trunk, to show you were not in control of the vehicle.
  3. Avoid Vehicle Operation: Do not turn on the car, even for air conditioning or heating, as this can be seen as exercising control over the vehicle.

The Bottom Line

Sleeping off a DUI in your car can still lead to legal troubles due to the concept of physical control. The safest way to avoid a DUI charge is not to enter your vehicle while intoxicated. Always plan a safe way to get home if you intend to consume alcohol or drugs, and remember that the best decision is to avoid driving under the influence altogether. This approach not only keeps you legally safe but also protects your life and the lives of others on the road.