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Is it legal to “sleep it off” while drunk in your car?

On Behalf of | Nov 17, 2021 | Dui |

A police officer in Lincoln, Nebraska, has the right to pull over a person they suspect of intoxicated driving. However, what if the car is already pulled over to the side of the road or parked? Drivers may wonder if they can get arrested for a DUI while sleeping in a vehicle.

Sleep it off law overview

Most state laws don’t prohibit a driver from sleeping in their vehicle, but it could come with the presumption of DUI. Whether a driver can sleep it off and not get a DUI depends on the state laws and the circumstances.

Most states define drunk driving as operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In most states, including Nebraska, the driver must also have actual physical control of the vehicle and the intent to drive.

Factors that could lead to DUI

A driver can still be considered in control of the vehicle even if it’s not moving in some circumstances. The court must decide actual physical control based on if the vehicle is operable given the location of the vehicle, keys and driver.

A driver sleeping with the keys in the ignition could have a higher chance of conviction, motor running or not. If the driver was trying to stay warm, they could use this as defense for the keys being in the ignition.

A motor not started still doesn’t mean that the driver never intended to drive, especially with keys on their person. Even with no intention of driving, if a driver registers 0.08 on a Breathalyzer, they may get arrested. Other indicators that a driver might have been driving drunk include a warm engine, their admission or witness statements.

It can be tricky to fight a DUI for sleeping it off, but it’s not impossible with some valid defenses. The prosecution needs evidence that the driver had control of the vehicle.