Is Sleeping Drunk in a Car Illegal in Texas?

You drove to the bar, only planning on having one drink, but that turned into more than anticipated. However, instead of driving home while intoxicated, you decide to do the responsible thing and camp out in your car for the night. This is an excellent idea until you’re awoken by a police officer knocking on your car window and charging you with a DWI. That’s right, sleeping in a car while drunk can land you with a DWI. Keep reading to learn more and how a McAllen, Texas DWI lawyer can help you beat the charges.

Why Is Sleeping Drunk in a Car Considered a Crime?

Though it seems impossible to receive a driving while intoxicated charge if the car was in park and you were asleep, it is entirely possible to face these charges in Texas. The statute specifies that you must be operating the vehicle to receive the charge. Texas defines the operation as being in control of the car.

This definition is still vague, as it’s up to the courts to determine whether or not you were operating the car. Some judges may see turning the vehicle on as operating it, while others will. Similarly, if there is reasonable suspicion that you drove before you fell asleep, you can be charged. For example, if you fall asleep with the car running, an officer can claim you were driving since your engine is warm.

What Are the Penalties?

The penalties for a DWI charge, even if you were sleeping, are severe. A first-time offense for a DWI charge in Texas can leave you facing a maximum fine of $2,000, up to 180 days in jail, and a driver’s license suspension. The charges will grow harsher with each subsequent charge. After two DWI charges, you can face a felony.

However, many first-time offenders don’t receive the maximum sentence for this charge, especially for those sleeping. This does not mean you shouldn’t prepare for the worst, though.

How Can I Sleep Safely?

In general, it’s best to avoid sleeping in your car. Calling a friend or using a rideshare app is the safest way to avoid a DWI charge. However, if you can’t get in touch with anyone, have no service, or your battery is dead, you can minimize the risk of being charged with a DWI by taking the following precautions:

  • Do not sleep in the front seat
  • Keep your car off
  • Do not put the keys in the ignition

You can also keep the keys in the trunk or glove compartment, which can help prove that there was no intent to drive.

A DWI charge can flip your life upside down. If you’re facing charges for sleeping in your car while intoxicated, don’t just accept it. Reach out to the Law Offices of Angel Davila to connect with an attorney who will fight to prove your innocence.