Can Sleeping in Your Car Lead to DWI?

Imagine this, you’ve had several alcoholic beverages when the bar closes and you don’t want to leave your car in the parking lot or on the street because you fear receiving a ticket or getting your vehicle towed. So you decide to “sleep it off” in your car and wait until you’re good enough to drive.

But while you sleep in the driver’s seat with the air conditioner on full blast, a police officer knocks on your windshield. Unfortunately, if you are under the influence inside a parked vehicle, you may still be charged with a Texas DWI.

According to state law, a person commits a DWI if he/she is “intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place.” While the Texas Penal Code properly defines “intoxicated” and “motor vehicle,” the law fails to define what “operating” means, leaving it up to the local courts to decide.

In most cases, courts will deem a driver “operating” a motor vehicle when--according to the circumstances of the case--he/she took some sort of action to “affect the functioning” of the car in a way that would “enable the vehicle’s use.” So if your car is parked, the keys are in the ignition, and your engine is running, you could be found to have been operating the motor vehicle. Likewise, if you are asleep with the A/C or radio on, or other DWI indicators exists, the court may find you guilty of DWI.

At The Clark Law Firm, our Fort Worth criminal defense attorney suggests that you avoid this type of situation altogether by calling a designated driver, requesting a ride through Uber or Lyft, or using public transportation to get yourself home safe. However, if you do happen to experience such a scenario, you need to make it difficult for law enforcement to prove that you did not intend to operate the car while under the influence.

The following are the precautions you can take to protect yourself from DWI arrest:

  • Take your keys out of the ignition
  • Do not turn on your engine and lights
  • Store your keys in the trunk or outside of the vehicle, as long as it is not within reach
  • Park your car in a legal spot

Although you can avoid DWI, you may still be charged with being drunk in public. In Texas, public intoxication is a Class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by a maximum fine of $500.

If you have been arrested for DWI in Fort Worth, contact us and schedule a complimentary consultation today.


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