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Can I Get a DUI If I'm in a Parked Car?

When you hit a local bar, have drinks with co-workers, or enjoy a Saturday night on the town and you’ve had enough to drink to question your sobriety, you have to figure out how to get home safely.

Your options may include having your less drunk friend drive you home (not an option), calling a cab, taking the bus (not in this neighborhood), walk (15 miles are too far), or call a ride-sharing service, such as Uber or Lyft. If you’re out of cash and left your credit card at home, your choices are drastically limited.

What do you do when you run out of options? Sometimes walking to the parking lot or garage around the corner from the bar or night club and sleeping it off for the night seems like the most logical thing to do. After all, it’s a whole lot better than driving drunk, right?

What if it’s a cold night and you’re freezing? You climb into the driver’s seat, turn the keys and crank the heater and doze off. Next thing you know, there’s a loud tapping at your window and it’s a cop.

The officer asks you if you’ve been drinking and you say, “Why yes officer, but I’m not driving, I’m sleeping it off until I sober up.” Before you know it, you’re in handcuffs and on your way to the station for booking. What just happened? You’re confused because you were “drinking responsibility” by not driving under the influence.

You Were Just Arrested for a Parked-Car DUI

If this happened to you, you got a “parked-car DUI,” and if you’re in the habit of sleeping it off in your car, you want to think twice before you climb behind the wheel for an alcohol-induced nap.

We know that we can get a DUI by driving under the influence of alcohol, and now illegal drugs and prescription medications. What many of us don’t realize is that under certain circumstances, we can be convicted of DUI, even if we’re sitting in a parked car.

A judge or jury can take a look at the totality of the circumstances and decide whether to convict you or not. Here are some actions that won’t help your situation:

  • You’re sitting in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition.
  • You’re in the driver’s seat and the engine is running (even if the car is parked).
  • You’re parked on the side of a busy road.
  • You’re parked in a parking lot with the keys in the ignition.
  • You’re sitting in the front and you have the keys on you, or within reach.
  • You’re passed out in the driver’s seat.
  • When questioned by the police, you tell them that you intend to drive in a few hours.

If you have no other choice but to sleep in your car after drinking alcohol, climb into the back seat and make sure the keys aren’t anywhere near the ignition. Even the passenger seat is better than the driver seat, but the back is the safest choice.

If an officer approaches your vehicle and talks to you, don’t give them the impression that you intend to drive in the near future. Make sure it’s clear that you had no intention of driving that night.

Arrested for DUI even though you were in a parked car? Get the help you need – contact our office to speak with one of Orange County’s top DUI attorneys!