Can I Get a DWI If I Sleep in My Car?

In Texas, driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases are typically featured on the local news throughout the state. However, rarely do these stories involve individuals charged with DWI in parked vehicles. But unfortunately, if you are drunk and asleep in a parked car, you may still be charged with a DWI in Texas and many other states throughout the country.

According to Texas law, a person commits a DWI when he or she is “operating” a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated. Although state law defines what it means to be intoxicated and what is considered a motor vehicle, it doesn’t define the term operating.

Due to the broadness of the term, it has been left up to the courts to define. Generally speaking, if the prosecution has circumstantial evidence that an individual had been operating a motor vehicle, the proofs may be sufficient to meet their burden of proof before a jury or judge, even without eyewitness testimony that a person was actually operating at the time.

Common examples of circumstantial evidence which suggests that a motorist has been operating a vehicle while intoxicated include:

  • The person is in the driver’s seat
  • Keys are in the ignition or near the ignition
  • The car is running
  • Signs of obvious recent use, like warm tires or tire tracks
  • Radio, heater, or air conditioning is on

Sleeping DWI charges can be hard to defend since a defendant is required to prove that he or she did not intend to operate the motor vehicle while intoxicated. If a person takes certain precautions, he or she will have an easier time fighting the charges. The precautions include, sleeping in the back seat, shutting off the engine, keeping your eyes away from the ignition, and parking your car in a legal spot.

At Crowder Law Firm PC, our McKinney criminal defense attorney advises our clients to avoid being in this type of situation in the first place. Rather than sleeping in the car after a night of drinking, contact a designated driver or request a ride from Uber of Lyft instead. Do not put yourself at risk of DWI. However, if you do decide to sleep it off in a parked car, make sure you do everything in your power to ensure the police cannot say you were operating the vehicle.

If you have been arrested for a DWI in Texas, contact Crowder Law Firm PC and request a free consultation with our McKinney DWI lawyer today. Get 18 years of experience on your side immediately.


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