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Home / New York Criminal Law Articles / DUI for Sleeping in Your Car

DUI for Sleeping in Your Car in New York

Perhaps you were expecting the night to be a casual gathering of a couple friends where you’d share a beer or two and head home, so you drove to the bar. Somewhere along the way, it got a little out of hand. At final call, you’re not in the best shape to drive. With your car out in the parking lot, you figure that the safest course of action is to spend several hours sleeping it off so that you feel confident you’re not a danger to yourself or others.

When you get to your car, you place the key in the ignition and turn it so that you can operate the car’s heater to keep from freezing, but you don’t start the engine. Some time later, you’re startled by a banging on the window and are dismayed to see it’s a New York police officer, asking you to lower your window. The next thing you know, you’re being arrested for driving while intoxicated. How is this legal? You weren’t even driving!

DWI convictions possible even when not driving

In some cases, drivers can indeed be convicted of driving while intoxicated or ability impaired (DWI/DWAI) when they aren’t even driving. Police officers have a right to ensure that citizens are safe and will often inspect occupied stationary vehicles to make sure that there isn’t an emergency. That said, officers have also been known to wait outside of some bars in order to catch intoxicated drivers walking to their car, arresting them before they have the chance to drive away.

Courts differ on definition of “operate”

New York vehicle and transportation laws make it illegal to “operate” a motor vehicle after becoming intoxicated or ability-impaired by drugs or alcohol. In most cases, this can be proven by an officer’s testimony that they saw you driving your car. However, judges have ruled that the word “operate” can mean more than just driving the vehicle, and can include starting the engine or, in some cases, just placing the keys in the ignition.

Mount the best possible defense to keep your record clear

Not all judges agree on when a person is “operating” a vehicle and when they are simply sitting in their car with no intention of driving. Fortunately, there are instances where a court dismissed charges against someone who clearly had no intention of driving but was arrested for DWI. Whether you can successfully be convicted of driving while intoxicated if you’re found sleeping in your car will depend on an array of legal and factual issues. At Dupée & Monroe, our DWI defense attorneys have extensive experience helping New York drivers get DWI charges dismissed or reduced to lower offenses. Our lawyers can help you by gathering the evidence and legal support you need to get the best possible result from your DUI charges.

Get Help with your DWI Arrest from Experienced and Dedicated New York DWI Defense Attorneys

As soon as possible after an arrest for DWI/DWAI in New York, contact the Goshen DWI defense attorneys at Dupée & Monroe for a consultation, at 845-294-8900.

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