Can I Get a DUI for “Sleeping it Off?”

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Most people are aware of the consequences of driving under the influence in Orlando. Aside from serious legal repercussions, driving after having too much to drink places countless lives in danger. Sometimes, people who have been drinking believe they’re good to drive until they get behind the wheel. Those who realize they are not in the best condition to operate a vehicle safely might decide to pull over and rest. Could a person who decides to “sleep off” alcohol impairment in his car still get arrested for DUI?

Police Officers May Check on Sleeping Drivers

While pulling off to the side of the road is a wise choice for anyone who feels unfit to drive for any reason, police officers who spot people asleep in their cars might become suspicious that something is wrong. Though there is no law against sleeping in a parked car in Florida, an officer may choose to check on the driver who is asleep to see if they’re OK. When the officer and the driver interact, the officer may become suspicious of DUI.

A police officer who finds a sleeping driver must have a reason for disrupting him. Usually, the officer will justify approaching the driver by claiming his safety required intervention. A law enforcement officer may not open the vehicle without first attempting to get the driver’s attention. Knocking on the door or window is a good way to get a response from the driver. Drivers who react to the knocking have no obligation to comply with any further requests the officer might make. Additionally, police officers may not detain individuals whom they have not observed breaking any laws, even if they have a hunch that the driver is intoxicated.

Being in “Actual Physical Control of a Vehicle”

Even if a driver has the engine shut off, he or she may be arrested for DUI if he is found to be in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence. In Florida, “actual physical control” refers to a driver’s physical ability to operate a car. Someone who falls asleep in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition or by their side is an example of a person in actual physical control of a vehicle.

So, a sleeping driver in a parked car found to be in actual physical control of his vehicle can face a DUI arrest and charges; the arresting officer simply requires grounds to investigate the situation and make an arrest.

Proving Actual Physical Control in Florida

The further away a driver is from his car keys, the better his chances are of not being found to be in actual physical control of his car. In Florida, the court must prove actual physical control when attempting to convict a person of DUI for sleeping in a parked vehicle. To do so, they must show the following:

  1. The individual had actual or constructive possession over the key to operate the vehicle; and
  2. He or she was in the driver’s seat, passenger’s seat, or passenger compartment; and
  3. The car was operable.

Keep in mind that modern cars often start without pushing an actual key into the ignition, so it’s important to note that simply having a ready and apparent ability to move a car is the key factor in proving actual possession.

Each situation is unique and there are times when the court may have difficulty proving that a driver had a “ready and apparent” ability to move his car. For instance, a driver who falls asleep in the back seat might present more of a challenge for the court, as might a driver who hands his keys over to a friend and falls asleep in the car in a parking lot or driveway. The safest thing to do to avoid a possible arrest is to sleep off impairment outside of a vehicle.

Challenge an Actual Physical Control DUI in Orlando

If you are facing a DUI charge after falling asleep in your parked car, a skilled DUI lawyer may be able to find several ways of defending you in court. It’s extremely important to discuss the facts of your case with an attorney as soon as possible, since these facts will greatly influence the outcome of your case.

For the best chance of obtaining the successful result you seek, contact the team of DUI lawyers at The Umansky Law Firm. Attorney William Umansky is a current member of the National College for DUI defense and sits on the Board of Directors for the Orange County Bar Association. With over 100 years of combined experience standing up for the rights of criminal defendants throughout Central Florida, we can ensure your case will receive the attention it deserves. Call 407-228-3838 or complete our contact form to get in touch with an attorney.