People often head to bars and parties intending to only have one or two drinks and stay a while before safely driving home unintoxicated. If they drink more than they intended, they may opt to sleep in their vehicle before driving home in order to ensure they can safely navigate the road after the effects of intoxication have worn off. But sometimes you can actually be arrested for driving under the influence even if you were asleep in a stopped car when the officer discovered you.
A DUI While Sleeping?
Yes, it’s true, police can arrest you for driving under the influence even if they discover you asleep in your vehicle. In fact, they can even arrest you if you are asleep in the backseat or if your keys have been locked in the trunk. Not only can you be arrested for sleeping in your car while drunk, you can even be convicted of it -and plenty of people have been.
California law says that as long as there is evidence you been driving, you can be charged with driving under the influence. The police do not need to see you driving in order to arrest you, but merely believe you have been driving while intoxicated. Things like having a warm engine, hood or tires, having part of your vehicle in the road, having the car in drive or leaving your keys in the ignition can all be used as evidence that you were recently driving. If the vehicle was in an accident, you will very likely be accused of driving if there is any question at all as to whether your car was on the road at the time, even if the other driver was at fault.
The police will also try to get you to admit you were driving, which will be used as a key piece of evidence in the prosecution’s case. This is yet another reason you should never speak to police without your defense attorney present.
Defenses to Sleeping DUI Arrests
Fortunately, just because you were found sleeping in a recently used vehicle while drunk doesn’t mean you will be found guilty of driving drunk. There are many defenses to this crime and when you only have circumstantial evidence against you, it is very possible to fight these charges with the help of an experienced drunk driving defense lawyer.
It is an absolute defense if you were not the driver but someone else drove the vehicle. To succeed, you will need evidence someone else was the driver through their statements or other witnesses. The missing driver defense is often raised, so prosecutors and juries tend to be skeptical but credible witnesses can change their minds.
Even if you were certainly driving, the time in which you drank alcohol is also critical in a DUI case. You can only get a DUI if you were under the influence while driving. That means if you drank immediately before driving the vehicle, the effects of the alcohol might not have hit you until after you pulled over and started sleeping. This is known as a rising alcohol defense. Since it takes 20-90 minutes for alcohol to affect someone who drinks, a person who drinks and then immediately drives and is on the road for no more than 15 minutes will not have been affected by the alcohol while driving.
On the other hand, you can also claim you only started drinking after you stopped driving. In these cases, you can still usually be charged with an open container law violation because you likely will have an open alcoholic beverage container in the car with you. But having an open container of alcohol in your car is only an infraction, whereas a DUI is a very serious misdemeanor with devastating consequences.
While you should avoid saying anything to police when you have been stopped for a DUI, if you have made the mistake of giving information about whether or not you drank, it is critical you remember what you told the officer. If you at least know what you said, your attorney may be able to use your statements to collaborate your defense. But, for example, if you tell the police that you were drinking at a party before getting in your vehicle, you cannot later claim you only started drinking in your car after you had already been driving.
If you have been arrested and charged with driving under the influence, it is critical you work with a lawyer who can help build a defense based on your individual circumstances. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation with Peter M. Liss.
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