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Can You Sleep In Your Car While Drunk?

Man looking sad behind the wheel of a vehicle

You leave the bar sometime after midnight. You don’t want to order an Uber or leave your car. At the same time, you know you’re unsafe to drive. Is it safe to sleep in your car while drunk?

Definition of DUI

In New Jersey, law enforcement does not need to witness you driving under the influence to charge you with a DUI. The only need evidence needed is the reasonable assumption that you recently drove the vehicle or that you intended to drive. Intent is crucial because it means that just getting in your car is not automatically a DUI unless there’s evidence that you planned to drive it.

An Important Precedent

In 1973, a New Jersey man fell asleep in his car in a bar parking lot. It was cold out, he claimed, so he started the engine while sitting in the driver’s seat, turned the heat on, and fell asleep. Police charged him with intent to drive the vehicle as his vehicle was on for an hour, and he was in the driver’s seat.

The court determined that by starting the engine, the defendant was a danger to himself and others. Even if he did not have the intent to drive the vehicle, he could have caused a serious accident.

The Moral of the Story

Starting the engine shows intent to drive the car, as does sitting in the driver’s seat. Ultimately the prosecution must demonstrate an intent to operate the vehicle. However, the definition of intent has expanded over the years. For that reason, it’s always best to consult an attorney if you’ve been accused of a DUI while sleeping in the back seat.

If you were charged with a DUI, you might want to legal representation. If you’d like an experienced New Jersey DUI attorney from the Law Offices of Joseph R. Donahue, LLC to evaluate your case, please send us an email or call (201) 574-7919.

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