Does Sleeping in Your Car Count as a DWI in MN?

It’s common weekend or even weeknight occurrence: people are out with friends having a good time and a few alcoholic beverages. At some point, they may realize they have had too much to drink to get home safe, so they decide to sleep it off in their car.

After all, it’s the safe thing to do since you’re not driving, right? Wrong.

If your blood alcohol content is above the legal limit when you decide to nap in your car, then you could be at a risk for a DUI. Yes, that’s right – a DUI.

There’s a lot to understand about DUI laws in Minnesota, and the more you do, the less chance there is that you could end up with a DUI. This especially goes for situations that you might assume are harmless, like sleeping it off in your car. Here’s what you need to know.

What The Minnesota Courts Say

The Minnesota Supreme Court has weighed their opinion on this issue. Their decision said that those with a blood alcohol content of over 0.08 percent can be charged with a DUI (DWI) in Minnesota even if the vehicle isn’t being driven.

Under the law, it’s illegal to operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated or impaired, but it’s not just operating the vehicle that forms the problem. According to the law, simply being in physical control of a vehicle when impaired or intoxicated is illegal – and sitting in your car, even if the keys aren’t in the transmission, is enough to qualify you for an arrest under DWI laws in the state.

Why You Can Get a DUI When Parked

Under the law, a law enforcement officer can cite you for a DUI when you’re parking if:

You’re Asleep in the Driver’s Seat

Even if your intentions were good, being in the driver’s seat only leaves the officer to assume that you were intent on driving. It’s difficult to prove that you were trying to abstain from driving when you felt you’d had too much to drink.

They have no way of knowing you chose to go to sleep. They might instead believe that you simply passed out as you were attempting to start the vehicle.

This type of DUI is called a “DUI without operating”. It normally happens when someone calls the police to report someone sleeping in a parked vehicle behind the wheel. In many cases, the arresting officer did not witness the vehicle in operation, so they are making their arrest based on the circumstances and the call of that person.

You Appear to Have Intent to Drive

Even if you are in the passenger seat or the back seat, officers can reasonably make the assumption that you had the intent to operate the vehicle. That’s why they can cite you for a DUI.

DWI Attorney Duluth

Be aware that arrests like these can be made in a variety of situations. They could even approach you if you’re sitting in a parking lot eating in the car – not just when you’re asleep. You may not be actively driving, but the police assume you had the intent to do so.

What About Keys in the Ignition?

It doesn’t matter if your keys are in the ignition or not. The law has recently changed to clarify that you are still considered in physical control of a vehicle even if the keys are not in the ignition – they simply have to be in the car.

About the Author:

Andrew T. Poole is a Minnesota native who has served in the Army for more than 18 years and is currently a JAG lawyer in the Army Reserves in addition to serving as a partner at LaCourse, Poole & Envall. He has handled thousands of criminal and family law cases over the course of his career and has a firm belief that all hardworking Minnesotans should be entitled to the best possible legal counsel. Mr. Poole boasts a 10/10 Superb rating on Avvo, is Lead Counsel rated, and has been recognized multiple times by SuperLawyers, National Trial Lawyers, and others for his work.