Can You Sleep Drunk in Your Car in New Jersey?

woman asleep behind the wheel

Picture this – you went out to eat with friends and ended up having more to drink than you planned. Instead of driving home, you do the responsible thing and sleep drunk in the car. The last thing you expect is to wake up to a flashlight shining through your car window and a police officer charging you with a DWI. If you want to avoid this situation, knowing the ins and outs of the law is essential. Keep reading to learn how a Middlesex County DWI attorney can help you avoid staining your criminal record.

What Makes It Illegal to Sleep Drunk in a Car?

Though it seemingly doesn’t make sense to be charged with a DWI if you’re in a parked car sleeping, the law surrounding these charges is vague. The statute outlaws anyone from operating a vehicle while under the influence or intoxicated. However, the interpretation of what constitutes the operation of a vehicle varies from department to department.

For example, one town may consider someone sleeping in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition as demonstrating the intent to operate the vehicle. You could also be charged if you’re found sleeping on the side of the highway, as it indicates you drove a short distance while intoxicated before pulling over and sleeping.

What Are the Penalties?

Though the penalties for a parked car DWI may not seem severe, they can be particularly harsh to deter individuals from committing this crime. They can leave a permanent mark on your record.

For your first offense with a BAC over the legal limit, you could face jail, fines, license suspension, and potentially installing an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. The penalties only grow more severe with each subsequent charge.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

If you want to sleep in your car while drunk, ensuring you take the steps to protect yourself is essential. While you should avoid it if you can due to the likelihood of criminal charges, sometimes there are no other choices. If you’re in a bind, keeping the following in mind may help:

  • Do not drive to a secondary location
  • Do not put the keys in the ignition
  • Do not sleep in the driver’s seat

You can even take extra precautions and put your keys in the trunk. This may help demonstrate that you had no intent to drive, as keeping them in your pocket can still hurt your case. When in doubt, calling a cab or friend to drive you is recommended.

If you’re facing DWI charges even though you were sleeping in a parked car, you’ll want to reach out to the Law Office of Michael A. Policastro. We will do our best to keep your record clean and prove you were doing the responsible thing.

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