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  • Coastal South Law

Can I Get a DUI for Sleeping in My Car?

Many people believe they can avoid a DUI by sleeping off a few drinks in their car instead of driving intoxicated, and while that choice does keep other drivers safe, it may not be as effective at avoiding legal repercussions as you think. In fact, many individuals have been charged with DUI after being found sleeping in their cars. How is this possible? In order to understand, it is necessary to look at the exact language used in the statute.


North Carolina law stipulates that a person has committed the crime of DUI if they are in “actual physical control of a vehicle which is in motion or which has the engine running.” At first glance, this may appear to be a loophole--that if you keep the keys out of the ignition and the engine off you are free and clear--however, that is not always the case. Whether you will be charged with a DUI for sleeping in your car will depend largely on the facts and circumstances of your individual case, and the analysis will likely focus on whether they indicate that you were in “actual physical control of the vehicle.”

Actual Physical Control of the Vehicle

The phrase “actual physical control of the vehicle” has been interpreted quite broadly. Officers have used an individual unlatching their car-door handle to speak to them as proof that the individual was in actual physical control of the vehicle. Likewise, they have found someone asleep in the backseat but in possession of the keys to be in actual physical control of the vehicle, even though in both cases the car had not been driven, was not in motion, and the keys were not in the ignition. However, in other cases, such as where the keys cannot be located (meaning that the individual could not have controlled the vehicle even if they wanted to), individuals have successfully avoided the DUI charges brought against them.

Challenging a Driverless DUI

If you have been charged with a DUI and you were not actually driving or operating a vehicle, you have grounds on which to challenge the charges, and an experienced defense attorney can help you ensure that your rights are protected and zealously advocate on your behalf. It is possible to challenge a driverless DUI charge by determining whether the officer checked the temperature of the hood prior to arresting you, or had any other evidence (direct or circumstantial) that you had been or were going to drive before making the arrest. If the headlights were not on, the keys were not in the ignition, the engine was not running, or the keys were misplaced or not located in an accessible place inside the vehicle, these will all help you to challenge the validity of the charge. It is important to note that not all of these factors are necessary to succeed; even just one can be a starting point to work toward a better outcome.

Talk to a North Carolina DUI Defense Lawyer

If you have been charged with a DUI in North Carolina, the best thing that you can do to help protect yourself and your future is to contact an experienced DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible. The lawyers at Coastal South Law are prepared to zealously advocate on your behalf and fight for the best possible outcome. Do not get stuck with a DUI just because you did not know how to fight it. Call today and schedule a consultation.

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