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Can I get a DUI for sleeping drunk in my car?

In Pennsylvania, you can be charged with a DUI if you drive, operate, or are in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while you are impaired by alcohol or drugs. What constitutes being in actual physical control of a vehicle is determined by the totality of the circumstances. Depending on several factors, you can be convicted of a DUI after sleeping drunk in your car. A DUI attorney at DiCindio Law can review the evidence and explain whether you might want to fight the charges or negotiate a favorable plea offer.

Frequently, this type of DUI offense occurs late at night in parking lots of bars, nightclubs, or along the roadside of streets. However, even if you thought that you would sleep it off in your car, a police officer might still charge you with a DUI.

Factors That Might Result In A DUI Charge While Sleeping In Your Vehicle

An officer might charge you with a DUI after finding you asleep in your vehicle based on the following types of evidence:

  • Sleeping in the driver’s seat
  • Keys in the ignition with the car turned on
  • Appearing as if you had the intent to drive
  • Parked on the side of the road alone while sleeping drunk
  • Lights on with the engine running while in park

Being asleep in the driver’s seat might not be enough to secure a conviction for a DUI by itself. However, if there are other indications that you either drove to the position where your vehicle is found or had the intent to drive, you might be convicted of a DUI even though the officer did not see you driving. For example, if you were asleep in the driver’s seat, had your keys in the ignition, and had the vehicle and the lights turned on, you might be convicted of a DUI even though the engine was not running. That was what happened in Commonwealth v. Winowitch, J-S58023-18 (Pa. Super. Ct. Oct. 16, 2018).

In that case, a man was found asleep in the driver’s seat of his vehicle with the keys in the ignition in the on position. The engine was not running, but the lights were on. The man’s vehicle was found in the parking lot of a ballfield close to a nearby bar, and he was parked in a crooked way across the lines of the parking space. The man also admitted that he had made a withdrawal of cash at the bar two hours before the officer found him sleeping. After the man was convicted, he appealed. The Superior Court upheld the decision of the Court of Common Pleas and found that under the totality of the circumstances, he could be found guilty of a DUI.

Where in the car that you were sleeping and where your vehicle was found are important. You might be less likely to be charged for this type of DUI if you were sleeping in your car’s backseat without the keys in the ignition. You might especially be less likely to be charged if you were sleeping in the backseat with your keys in the glovebox while your vehicle was still parked in the bar parking lot where you spent your evening. If an officer still charged you, your attorney might be able to get the prosecutor to dismiss the case.

Why Sleeping In Your Vehicle While Drunk Can Be Grounds For An Arrest

Many people wrongly believe that they cannot be charged or convicted of a DUI when the police did not witness them driving and simply found them sleeping drunk in their vehicles. The police can charge you for a DUI even if you were parked and sleeping in your vehicle, depending on the circumstances. Your attorney might be able to secure a dismissal of the charges based on a lack of probable cause by the officer, however. Your attorney will review the specific details of how and where you were found in the vehicle, the position of the keys, and other circumstances to try to get the prosecutor to dismiss the charges.

The prosecutor does not need actual evidence of driving to prove his or her case against you. Instead, he or she can prove a DUI charge with circumstantial evidence even though the officer did not see you driving the vehicle.

Get Help From An Experienced DUI Defense Attorney In West Chester

If you were charged with a DUI after a police officer found you sleeping in your vehicle, you should get legal help as quickly as possible. It may be easier for your DUI defense attorney to get the charges dismissed early in the case rather than later. An experienced attorney from DiCindio Law can rely on current case law and the circumstances of your case to build a strong defense to your charges. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling 610.430.3535 or by filling out our contact form.

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Michael DiCindio

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