Can You Get a DUI for Sleeping in Your Car?

Virginia maintains some of the strictest DUI laws in the nation, resulting in 15,988 driving under the influence (DUI) convictions in the most recent reporting year.

A prime example of Virginia’s harsh DUI laws is seen in the state’s definition of DUI. In Virginia, if you are found intoxicated and in physical control of a vehicle, you can get a DUI for sleeping in your car.

Consequences for such an offense can include hefty fines, suspension of driving privileges, mandatory alcohol education programs, and, in some cases, imprisonment.

If you are facing DUI charges, it is essential that you consult with an experienced Virginia DUI defense attorney to learn about your rights and defenses.

Virginia DUI Laws

In the state, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher for individuals 21 and older and 0.02% or higher for those under 21.

However, it’s essential to note that you can be charged with a DUI even if your BAC is below the legal limit if your ability to drive safely is impaired due to drugs or alcohol.

Virginia enforces a “zero tolerance” policy for underage drivers, meaning any detectable alcohol or drugs can result in a DUI charge.

Virginia also has strict open container laws prohibiting the possession of open alcoholic beverage containers in the passenger area of a motor vehicle. You should seek legal counsel from an experienced attorney to navigate these laws and protect your rights.

Is It Illegal to Sleep in Your Car Drunk?

In Virginia, it is not inherently illegal to sleep in your car while intoxicated; however, there are certain circumstances in which you can be charged with a DUI or related offenses while sleeping in your vehicle.

The critical factor that can lead to legal trouble is whether law enforcement or the court finds that you were in physical control of the vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

While it may seem straightforward, the definition of “operating” is not limited solely to driving a vehicle in motion. The state’s legal framework considers a broader range of actions that demonstrate control or potential control over a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

As such, some actions that may amount to “operating a vehicle” include the following:

  • Actual driving,
  • Sitting in the driver’s seat,
  • Attempted operation, and
  • Control over key functions.

Ultimately, the determination of whether someone was operating a vehicle in a DUI case often depends on the specific facts and circumstances of each case.

Law enforcement and courts will consider multiple factors when making this determination, including the individual’s location in or around the vehicle, the presence of keys, and any actions that suggest an attempt to drive.

Can You Get a DUI for Sleeping in the Passenger Seat?

It is possible to be charged with a DUI while sleeping in the passenger seat of a vehicle in Virginia, though the outcome may depend on various factors.

In Virginia, if you are inside a parked car, including the passenger seat, with the keys in your possession, you could potentially be charged with a DUI.

Having the keys or using the electronic system of your vehicle can be interpreted as having the potential to operate the car.

While the law primarily focuses on the driver’s seat, the interpretation of being in physical control may vary depending on the circumstances and the discretion of law enforcement.

It’s important to note that laws and legal interpretations can change over time, and individual cases may differ.

Therefore, if you are facing a situation where you have been charged with a DUI while sleeping in the passenger seat, it is crucial to consult with a qualified attorney who can provide you with information regarding the current trends in the law and defense.

Video: Can You Get a DUI Sleeping in the Back?

How to Avoid DUI for Sleeping in a Car

If you believe you may be at risk for a DUI and cannot find a designated driver or safe way home, you should consider sitting on the sidewalk.

However, if that option is unsafe or not possible, it is essential that you rest in the backseat of your vehicle without your car running or the keys in your hand.

DUI Defenses for Sleeping in a Car

If you have been charged with a DUI for sleeping in a car in Virginia, it’s essential to consult with an experienced attorney who can assess the details of your case and provide guidance tailored to your specific circumstances.

While every case is unique, some potential defenses involve arguing that you lacked the intent to drive. A viable defense may include demonstrating that you had no intention of operating the vehicle while under the influence and were merely using the car as a place to rest.

Evidence such as the location of your keys, your physical condition, and statements made to law enforcement officers can support this defense.

Further, your lawyer may examine whether law enforcement officers followed proper procedures during your arrest, including whether they had probable cause to approach your vehicle and whether field sobriety tests or breathalyzer tests were administered correctly.

Similarly, your attorney may have specific evidence suppressed if they can establish that law enforcement violated your rights during the arrest process, such as an illegal search and seizure or improper Miranda warnings.

It’s essential to work closely with a skilled DUI defense attorney who can evaluate the specific facts of your case and craft a defense strategy tailored to your situation.

Have You Been Arrested and Charged with a DUI for Sleeping in a Car?

If you are facing Virginia DUI charges for “sleeping it off” in your car, reach out to the dedicated DUI defense attorneys at Flusche & Fitzgerald for immediate assistance.

At Flusche & Fitzgerald, we have decades of experience providing clients with the aggressive representation they need to beat the allegations against them.

We have successfully resolved countless DUI cases on behalf of our clients, ensuring they keep their freedom and their driver’s licenses.

To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, give Flusche & Fitzgerald a call today. You can also connect with us through our secure online contact form.

Andrew Flusche

My name is Andrew Flusche. I am a traffic and misdemeanor defense lawyer in Virginia. I limit my practice to traffic tickets and misdemeanor defense, so I know the ins and outs of these offenses. I literally wrote the book on reckless driving in Virginia which you can get on Amazon here or download for free here. I opened my practice in 2008 after earning my Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. Since then, I have earned over 600 5-star reviews from happy clients on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor offense in Virginia, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Your initial consultation is always free, and you'll talk directly with me about the details of your case.

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