Can I Face a DUI for Sleeping Drunk in My Car in New Jersey?

woman sleeping in car

When you’ve had too much to drink, making the decision not to drive is crucial. However, if you’ve called a few friends, and no one can pick you up, you may not know what to do. Instead of driving home, your only option is to sleep it off in your car. You climb in, get as comfortable as possible, and drift off. Your rest doesn’t last long, as you’re shortly awoken by a police officer before being charged with a DUI. If you’re not sure how this is possible, keep reading. You’ll also want to reach out to a Camden County DUI attorney for additional guidance.

How Can Someone Recieve a DUI While Sleeping?

If you’re sleeping in a car, it seems impossible to be charged with a driving crime. However, due to the vague terms used in the New Jersey statute that prohibits driving under the influence, it is entirely possible.

The law never says you need to be physically driving a car in order to face penalties. The statute states that someone cannot “operate” a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This term is not definite, leaving it open to interpretation by police officers, judges, and courts.

Unfortunately, you can face charges simply for sleeping with the engine running, as this could be considered “operating” the vehicle, as you had to turn the car on. The possibility that you could drive is also more than enough to leave you facing charges.  However, if the engine is off, you likely will not face charges.

What Are the Penalties?

If you are facing a DUI charge for sleeping in your car with the engine on, you can expect the same penalties you would if you were caught driving while intoxicated. This means the penalties can be severe and should not be taken lightly.

In New Jersey, a first-time DUI offense is considered a disorderly persons charge, equal to a misdemeanor in other states.

If found with a BAC between 0.08% and 0.10% for the first time, you can face a three-month license suspension, jail time, hefty fines, and the possibility of an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle.

When you find yourself in this situation, doing your best to find an alternative to sleeping in your car is essential. Calling a friend or using a rideshare service is a guaranteed way to avoid a DUI charge.

Should I Get a Lawyer?

Though you tried to do the responsible thing, you’re facing charges for a DUI. The penalties can be harsh, while the charge on your record has many negative impacts.

However, enlisting the help of an experienced lawyer is necessary. Using the information provided by the police report, possible body camera footage, and your testimony, they may be able to prove you had no intent to drive.

If you’re facing charges for a crime you didn’t know you were committing, ensuring you receive the help of a seasoned DUI lawyer is crucial. Reach out to DeMarco & Associates today to discuss the details of your case and learn how we can help prove your innocence.

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