After a night of heavy drinking, many people choose to sleep in their parked
cars as an alternative to driving home, hoping to wake up refreshed and
ready to drive after a brief snooze. Unfortunately, there are just as
many situations when a police officer notices a sleeping motorist, conducts
an investigation, recognizes the smell of alcohol, and proceeds to arrest
the individual for committing a
Can I Get a DWI in a Parked Car?
In many states throughout the U.S., including Texas, if you are under the
influence and in a parked vehicle, you may still be charged with a DWI.
According to Texas law, a person commits a DWI when he or she is operating
a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated.
Texas law defines being “intoxicated” and what is considered
a “motor vehicle.” However, it fails to define what “operating”
means, leaving it up to the courts to provide a definition. Texas courts
have interpreted “operating” quite broadly in regard to DWI charges.
Essentially, when determining whether sufficient evidence exists to support
a DWI conviction, courts will deem a motorist “operating”
a motor vehicle when, based on certain circumstances, he or she took some
action to “affect the functioning of the vehicle in a way that would
enable the vehicle’s use.”
Actions to Avoid
Although we do not advise you to snooze off your booze in your parked vehicle,
there are several things that everyone should be aware of before getting
in a car, or even thinking about driving it. In the eyes of the judge
or jury, there are a variety of behaviors which could make it appear like
operating a vehicle.
Common examples include:
- Sleeping in the driver’s seat
- Sleeping with your seatbelt on
- Sleeping in your car with the keys
- Sleeping in your car with the engine running
- Sleeping in your car with the radio on
Based on the circumstances mentioned above, the jury or judge could come
to the conclusion that the motorist had taken steps that affected the
functioning of the vehicle, and consequently was operating the car prior
to dozing off. So when deciding whether a motorist was in fact “operating”
a motor vehicle at the time of the arrest, even minor details can be the
difference between conviction and dismissal.
The following are several precautions to take if happen to fall asleep
in your parked car:
- Sleep in the back seat
- Recline the seat
- Turn off the engine and the lights
- Leave your keys out of the of the ignition
- Park your car in a legal spot
- Place your eyes in the trunk or outside the vehicle
Ultimately, the best decision is to request a ride from a ride-sharing
service (e.g. Uber, Lyft) or contact a designated driver to take your
home. Do not even risk facing the possibility
For more information,
schedule a free consultation with our
College Station criminal defense attorney at
The Law Office of Shane Phelps, P.C. today.