Can I Get A DUI By Sleeping In My Car?

SleepingI’m sure a lot of us have at least once in our lives, slept in our car after a night of drinking to take a quick nap before driving. After all, this seems like a logical alternative to driving under the influence. It’s also reasonable to assume that driving under influence actually means driving the vehicle, right? Well yes, however, being charged for DUI goes beyond driving your vehicle. This short blog will give you a better understanding of the law, and hopefully enables you to make a more educated decision before taking a quick nap in your car before driving.

A.R.S. §28-1381 states that it is unlawful for a person to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle in this state while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drugs…etc.”

The Evolution Of The Court’s Interpretation Of The Term “Control Of A Vehicle”

The term “control” is very important in understanding Arizona’s DUI laws. In State of Arizona v. Zavala, the Supreme Court of Arizona held that a motorist who was asleep and parked in the emergency lane of Interstate 10 with the key in the ignition and the motor off, was not in actual physical control because he voluntarily ceased to exercise control over the vehicle prior to losing consciousness. If however, the government proved that he drove to that location, while under the influence, he would’ve been prosecuted for DUI.

Another DUI case thirteen years later clarified the law. The Court listed factors to consider, listed below:

  1. Whether the vehicle was running or the ignition was on
  1. Where the key was located
  1. Where and in what position the driver was found in the vehicle
  1. Whether the person was awake or asleep
  1. If the vehicle’s headlights were on
  1. Where the vehicle was stopped (in the road or legally parked)
  1. Whether the driver had voluntarily pulled off the road
  1. The time of day and the weather conditions
  1. If the heater or air conditioner was on
  1. Whether the windows were up on down
  1. And any explanation advanced by the defense

A later case based their decision on the totality of the circumstances shown by evidence and extended the opportunity to be convicted of DUI to those people who were intoxicated and may drive their vehicles at some point in the future. The Court held that if the potential use of the vehicle presented a real danger to himself and others, then the intoxicated driver was in actual physical control of the vehicle.

The Current Interpretation

The Court’s determination and interpretation of the term “control of a vehicle” has evolved. So, what is the interpretation now? The most recent DUI case that involved an intoxicated person sleeping in his car determined that the crime is completed when the circumstances of control-as actually physically exercised-demonstrate an ultimate purpose of placing the vehicle in motion or directing influence over a vehicle in motion.
In laymen’s terms, it cannot appear that you were in control of your vehicle, your vehicle must be away from roadways, and if you were to operate your vehicle away from the roadway, you wouldn’t pose a danger of hurting yourself or others.

The Takeaway

If you are intoxicated and want to sleep in your car, remove your car if you are in an unsafe location. A safe location is somewhere away from main roads and residential neighborhoods – basically, anywhere there is very low traffic flow and people. Once it’s in a safe location, don’t put the key in the ignition. Get in the back seat. If you don’t have a backseat, sit in the passenger’s seat.

Ariano & Reppucci

If you were charged for DUI while sleeping in your car, call Ariano & Reppucci now. DUI laws can be complicated and open to interpretation. Our lawyers are happy to explain the law and provide you options for representation