Drinking and Parking Can Be Illegal

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on May 30, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Consider this: after a night of drinking, you head back to your car. You don't have cab money, and no one will pick you up. At once, you decide to do the responsible thing and sleep it off in your car. 

Smart move. Or is it?

Possibly not. Though the law explicitly prohibits driving while under the influence, it actually prohibits a lot more. In some jurisdictions, you can be busted for parking while drunk. This is what many refer to as a parked car DUI, and its existence is contrary to common sense.

Which is why you need to learn the law and protect yourself. In some states and counties, "driving" isn't limited to "moving." It often includes operating a motor vehicle, or having the ability to do so. In other words, if you have physical control over the vehicle, you're "driving."

This is true even if you happen to be sleeping. Consider these parked car DUI cases:

  • In Brewer v. MVD , the Colorado Supreme Court confirmed a DUI citation given to an individual who was asleep behind the wheel with the car running.
  • In State v. Lawrence, the Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed a DUI conviction when the defendant was found asleep in the front seat with the keys in his pocket.
  • In State v. Peterson, the Montana Supreme Court allowed a conviction to stand for an individual who was found with his head near the passenger door and the engine running. State v. Taylor had a similar outcome, though the driver's keys were in his pocket.

By now, you should realize that the only real way to avoid a parked car DUI is not to drunkenly get into a car without a designated driver. However, if you really have to sleep it off in your car, get as far away as possible from the front seat and don't turn on the engine.

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