Can You Get a DUI in California for “Sleeping It Off” in Your Car?

It’s last call and the bar is about to close. You’re too drunk to drive, but you don’t want to call an Uber or Lyft and leave your car unattended overnight.

In the end, you decide to take a nap until you’re sober enough to drive. However, can “sleeping it off” in your car lead to a DUI arrest in California?

In most states, being caught asleep behind the wheel can result in a DUI arrest simply due to having “actual physical control” of a vehicle while intoxicated. However, that is not the case in California.

Based on the ruling in Mercer v. Department of Motor Vehicles (1991), while you can still get a DUI if the vehicle isn’t in motion, proof of “volitional movement” is required for a conviction. In other words, there must be circumstantial evidence you drove your car before you fell asleep behind the wheel.

Common examples of circumstantial evidence include:

  • The engine and tires are still warm
  • The keys are in the ignition
  • The vehicle is in drive
  • Your tire tracks are on the road
  • Your vehicle is parked on the side of the road or freeway

Without any direct or circumstantial evidence to be used against you, it would be challenging for the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were drunk driving. Keep in mind, you could still be charged with another crime, like public intoxication.

If you have been arrested for a DUI in Bakersfield, contact Koenig Law Office today at (661) 338-5353 and schedule a free consultation.

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