Everyone knows that they shouldn’t drink and drive. But what happens if your car is parked? Can you still get a DUI even if your car isn’t moving? Can you legally sleep it off in your car without getting arrested? The fact is that the legality of being drunk in a parked car is complicated.
Police officers could technically arrest you, but don’t always have the right to do so. They have to have probable cause. And if you were arrested for a DUI in a parked car, a criminal defense lawyer could be able to argue that there was no probable cause to arrest you.
Can I Get a DUI If I Wasn’t Driving?
It’s complicated. You can get a DUI if your car is parked, but there needs to be evidence that you had voluntarily caused the car to move. That can mean that you didn’t even start the engine. Even just putting the car in neutral so that it moves a few inches can count as driving under the influence.
There is also a chance that an officer could arrest you for an attempted DUI, but that is rare. An attempted DUI occurs when someone is obviously intoxicated and is caught putting their keys in the ignition, sitting with the engine on, or some other sign of the cleat attempt to drive. If you’re arrested for an attempted DUI, the penalties are usually less than a regular DUI.
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Is Sleeping in Your Car While Drunk a DUI?
No, just sleeping in your car while drunk is not cause for a DUI. According to California Vehicle Code 23152(b), you cannot drive a vehicle if your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is above .08%. But as long as there is no clear evidence that you had voluntarily moved the vehicle, you cannot be charged for driving under the influence.
However, no matter where you are, you could be arrested for being drunk in public, which is applicable if either of the following is true:
- You are unable to care for your safety or another person’s safety
- You are obstructing, preventing, or interfering with the free use of public ways, sidewalks, or streets
The parameters for being drunk in public can be unclear, and to keep drunk drivers off the road, authorities may try to arrest someone sleeping in their car for being drunk in public even if they don’t meet the definition of the crime.
You could also be charged with a violation of an open container law if you have any bottles or cans of alcohol in your car. Even if the containers are mostly empty or you haven’t drunk from them, any open alcohol could get you arrested.
If you were simply sleeping in your car when you received a DUI, you should get in contact with a California DUI lawyer. By investigating your case and showing that there was no volitional movement and no intent to drive, a skilled attorney could be able to get your charge reduced or even dropped altogether.
How Can I Avoid a DUI While I Sleep in My Car?
The best way to avoid a DUI in any situation is to not drive under the influence. If you do not start the car or move it in any way, a prosecutor’s charge of driving under the influence can fall apart easily. However, there are other charges that they could pin you with if you are sleeping drunk in your car.
To avoid being arrested for sleeping in your car while drunk, you should:
- Put away or throw out any alcohol containers
- Make sure your car is not obstructing a roadway, sidewalk, or another public place
- Avoid sleeping in the driver’s seat
- Behave yourself and avoid being visibly or audibly drunk, especially if apprehended by a police officer
- Call a cab or use a rideshare app to get home safely, then come back and collect your car later
No matter what you do, being drunk in your car is suspicious, and an officer may still try to bring you to the station overnight. Be compliant with authorities. And if you’re arrested, contact a DUI lawyer in California who can protect your rights.
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Probable Cause for a DUI in a Parked Car Defense
There is a common defense that experienced DUI attorneys in California often use to refute a DUI in a parked car known as the “probable cause defense”—that there was no actual cause to believe that the defendant had driven while intoxicated or intended to.
According to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, there is probable cause to arrest someone when there is a “fair probability or substantial chance that the suspect committed the crime.” Because you can sit in a parked vehicle without having driven it, there is not necessarily probable cause for arresting someone for being drunk in a car.
The prosecution can always assert that the defendant was acting drunk, acting suspiciously, or was reported to be driving drunk. Those accusations can be refuted, however. A skilled California DUI attorney will know the best defenses to your DUI charge and how to use probable cause against the prosecutor.
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Talk to a California DUI Lawyer Today
Drunk driving is a serious accusation with long-lasting penalties. If you weren’t driving under the influence, you don’t deserve to have your life affected by having a DUI on your record. California DUI lawyers Simmrin Law Group can defend you against your charges.
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