Updated on July 15th, 2024 at 04:33 pm

image of a man sleeping at the wheel of his vehicleIf you’ve been out drinking at a bar and you are too drunk to drive home safely, you might opt to take a nap in your car to avoid getting a DUI. Although this is a safe and smart choice, it can still get you a DUI. Virginia law on DUI is broad and can include some factors that lead to your arrest.

The penalties for being convicted of drunk driving, even when sleeping it off in your car, include suspension of your driver’s license, hefty fines, jail time, attending an alcohol education program, and installing an ignition interlock device.

If you are in such a predicament, experience matters. Contact Keefer Law Firm to avoid the harsh penalties that DUI convictions carry.

DUI Laws in Virginia

In Virginia, it’s illegal to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) that’s 0.08% or higher for adults over 21 and 0.02% for anyone under 21 years. However, you can still get a DUI charge even when your BAC levels are below the legal limits if your driving is impaired by alcohol or drugs.

There’s also an open container law that bans the possession of an open alcoholic beverage in your vehicle. To protect yourself and navigate Virginia DUI laws, you need counsel from an experienced Harrisonburg DUI attorney.

Is It Illegal To Sleep in Your Car Drunk?

It might sound unfair, but Virginia defines DUI broadly such that it includes sleeping or sitting in your car while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol.

While it’s not inherently wrong to sleep it off in your car while drunk, some circumstances can get you charged with driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The main factor is when a police officer determines you are in physical control of the motor vehicle.

The definition of operating a motor vehicle doesn’t only apply to an actual moving vehicle. Virginia law considers a host of actions as being in physical control of a motor vehicle. These actions include:

  • Leaving the engine running
  • Ignition keys are in the ignition switch
  • You fell asleep in the driver’s seat
  • Listening to the radio in your car

The police officer can also consider circumstantial evidence, like a warm hood, to deduce if you were driving under the influence of alcohol.

What if I Have a Push-Start Button on My Vehicle?

With newer vehicles, you may not have to worry about having the key in the ignition because of the push-start technology. But you’re not in the clear yet. Having the key fob in your pocket could be considered to be in physical control of the motor vehicle. Although there’s no ruling on this yet, it’s a possibility.

DUI Defense for Sleeping in a Car

If you’re charged with DUI for sleeping in a motor vehicle, you need to speak with an experienced attorney to discuss your options. Defense options may include the fact that no one witnessed the actual operation of the vehicle. Therefore, it cannot be determined if you drove before or after drinking.

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Another defense strategy could argue that you didn’t intend to drive and were using the car as a place to rest as a responsible choice. The location of the keys can be used to make this case.

Aside from this, an experienced lawyer can examine if the police officer followed the correct procedure during your arrest. This includes whether they had probable cause to inspect you and your vehicle and whether the breathalyzer and field sobriety tests were administered correctly.

If your attorney discovers that the police officers violated your rights during your arrest through an illegal search, seizure, or improper Miranda reading, they may be able to file for suppression of evidence.

To make these defenses work, you must partner with an experienced defense attorney who can evaluate the circumstantial evidence and direct evidence of your case. This will allow them to craft a personalized defense strategy to help you avoid the harsh penalties of being convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Contact Keefer Law Firm

If you’ve been arrested and charged with DUI for sleeping it off in the car, you need an effective defense strategy. Contact Keefer Law Firm today!