Can You Be Charged with a DWI for Sleeping While Drunk in Your Vehicle

By Jose Ceja
Managing Attorney

When you’ve had a bit too much to drink you know it’s not safe to drive. In an effort to avoid doing so, you figure you’ll sleep it off in your car so that you can avoid any issues. Unfortunately, you may be surprised to learn that you could still find yourself in trouble.

It’s hard to imagine that sleeping in your car while drunk could be an issue; after all, you’re not actually driving, your car may be off, and you may even be in the passenger side or back seat. Yet, it can still lead to a DWI (driving while intoxicated) arrest.

How Can This Be?

Under Texas state law, an individual has committed a DWI if they are “intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place.” This begs the question of what it means to “operate” a vehicle.

According to what the courts have held, to “operate” a vehicle refers to having the ability to control the vehicle. Therefore, if you were sleeping in the passenger seat with the car on, it’s easily arguable that you were operating the vehicle. But, if you were sleeping in the backseat with the car off and the keys in your purse, you may think there’s no way that you were operating the vehicle. However, it can still be argued that you had the ability to operate the vehicle since you still had possession of the keys.

What Should You Do Instead?

As you can imagine, it doesn’t take much to be found operating a vehicle – even if you had absolutely no intention to do so. That’s why if you find yourself intoxicated away from home, it’s best to call for a ride from a friend or family member or rideshare (i.e. Uber) or to ask the host if you can crash at their place until you sober up.

 If you have already made the mistake of sleeping off the alcohol in your vehicle and have been arrested and charged with DWI, it’s important to understand the reality of what you are up against. While it’s not impossible to defend a DWI charge in this case, it is extremely difficult.

 Some factors may help to show that you had no intention of driving, which can bolster your defense:

 ·      You were asleep in the back seat

·       Your engine was off

·       Your lights were off

·       Your car was parked (in a legal space)

·       Your keys were as far away from your possession as possible (e.g. with a friend or in the trunk)

 Even if the above factors are true for your situation, it’s always in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced Texas criminal defense attorney.

 The Attorneys at Ceja Law Firm Help Those in Houston Who Have Been Charged with DWI

If you have been charged with DWI, it can have very serious consequences. That’s why it’s so important that you act quickly in an effort to defend yourself.

At Ceja Law Firm PLLC, we understand the serious nature of such a criminal charge and the impact that it can have on one’s life. We also understand that time is of the essence. That’s why we will work to help you obtain the best possible outcome. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

About the Author
Jose Ceja is the managing attorney of Ceja Law Firm. He has practiced law since 2007 and has devoted his career to the practice of criminal law. Mr. Ceja began his legal career as a felony drug prosecutor, where he prosecuted drug, gang, and violent offenses. Mr. Ceja has first or second chaired almost 100 trials, including murders, drug cases, DWIs, and assaults. In his career as a defense attorney, he has regularly obtained dismissals, not guilty verdicts, and grand jury “no bills” in a wide variety of cases.