You Can Be Charged With a DUI-Even If You're Parked

It is probably reasonable to assume that most people think it is safe, responsible, and entirely legal to sleep in their car while intoxicated in order to avoid drunk driving. While this practice is, of course, infinitely safer and more responsible than drunk driving, it is not legal. If you get spotted napping in your car while waiting to sober up by a police officer, you can and will likely be arrested for driving under the influence (DUI). Why is this surprising turn of events even possible?

Intoxicated While in Physical Control of a Vehicle

It seems unfair and illogical that you could be arrested for driving under the influence when you were not actually driving your car. However, Colorado law makes it a convictable offense for a driver to be intoxicated in a vehicle that is operable or reasonably capable of being rendered operable, as a driver is someone who is in physical control of a vehicle, not just someone who is actively driving. In layman’s terms, if you could have feasibly just stopped driving before the police officer found you, then you can be arrested for a DUI. The same applies if you could have feasibly began driving within a brief moment had the police officer not found you roadside.

The court may decide you were in physical control of a vehicle depending on several factors, such as:

  • Where your vehicle was found.
  • Where you were sitting or lying in the vehicle.
  • Whether or not the keys were in the ignition.
  • Whether or not the vehicle was running.

In effect, you can get arrested and charged for a DUI so long as you are alone in a vehicle and intoxicated. Turning on the heater to stay warm, listening to the radio, charging your phone, and other actions that require the car to be started will only increase your chances of being arrested for a “parked car DUI.”

Avoiding a Parked Car DUI

The only way to ensure you do not get a parked car DUI is the same “only surefire way” to avoid a DUI entirely: do not get inside your car while you are intoxicated without a designated driver. Thanks to the advent of ridesharing apps, it is easier than ever to find an alternative way home after a night of drinking with friends. Most smartphones actually come standard with Uber or Lyft preinstalled, so you may have a ridesharing app on not even know it. Do not forget about traditional taxi cab services, too.

If you cannot get a ride home from a cab, ridesharing service, or someone you trust, it is not a reason to drive drunk and endanger yourself, everyone else on the road, and possibly get a DUI charge. In some counties, you can call the sheriff’s office and request a ride home. Most police officers are happy to be of service if it means keeping a drunk driver off the road. When you cannot get a ride from anyone, including the sheriff, and it is too dangerous to try to walk somewhere, you can try to sleep in your car as far away from the driver’s seat as possible with the keys in the glove compartment and all the lights off.

Contact a Denver DUI Attorney Today

If you have been charged with a DUI while parked, it is imperative that you get in touch with the Law Office of Kevin Cahill and our DUI defense lawyer in Denver, Colorado. We can help you understand the charges, evaluate the evidence against you, and come up with a solid plan to reach the best possible outcome for your case. Contact us today for a free consultation.


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