Can I Get a DWI for Trying to Sleep It Off in My Car?


When you think of a DWI charge, you usually assume someone is driving a car while, you know, drunk. However, you can actually be arrested for a DWI in Texas while not driving a car. ­­There are cases of people who have had a few drinks pull over with the intention of not breaking the law and try to sleep it off. However, there’s a saying about a road paved with good intentions. In many states, Texas included, if you are under the influence of alcohol and in a parked car, you can still be arrested and charged with a DWI.

Texas law defines a DWI as any circumstance where an individual is operating a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated, meaning their blood alcohol content (BAC) level is .08 or above. That said, the law defines what is specifically considered a motor vehicle. It also defines what it means to be intoxicated. However, it does not define what it means to operate a vehicle.

This means it is up to the courts to interpret what “operating” a vehicle is. So, naturally, it is interpreted broadly for DWI cases. So, even though your car is off and parked in a legal parking space, if the keys are still in the ignition, some courts will find you were operating the vehicle. Your best bet to avoid a DWI if you want to sleep it off is to take the following steps if you find you have had too many drinks:

  • Sit in the backseat if possible
  • Recline the seat
  • Shut off the car engine and turn off the lights
  • Remove the keys from the ignition and put them in the trunk (don’t lock the trunk)
  • If possible, park your car in a legal parking spot or zone (not just on the side of the road)

Contact a Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer After a DWI Arrest

Even if you take these steps, it does not necessarily mean you are in the clear for avoiding a DWI. Police can still arrest you by saying you intended to drive while intoxicated. However, taking these steps will make your intent to drive more difficult for them to prove in court. At this point, it is important to consult with a Texas criminal defense lawyer to begin building your case and help you acquire an occupational drivers license.

Mike Goolsby is a Dallas criminal defense attorney who can help you navigate through the Texas legal system and will fight for your rights in court. We also have offices in the Fort Worth, McKinney, Plano, Arlington and Denton areas of Texas.


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