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Can someone get arrested for sleeping it off in a vehicle?

Drivers in Virginia are almost universally aware that it is illegal to get behind the wheel after drinking. Those who notice impairment at a party or bar could be at risk of a driving under the influence (DUI) arrest. The law even allows police officers to arrest those with an elevated blood alcohol concentration (BAC) even if their driving is relatively normal.

Many people would prefer not to take the risk of getting arrested for a DUI after leaving a bar or party. One of the ways drivers might try to avoid allegations of drunk driving is to sleep until they have a chance to sober up again. Sleeping it off can allow someone to safely drive home later. Unfortunately, the decision to sleep in a vehicle might actually lead to DUI charges.

Driving isn’t necessary for a DUI charge

Contrary to what people assume given the name of the offense, actually driving on public roads is not necessary for the state to pursue DUI charges against a motorist. Instead, prosecutors only need to show that someone was in actual physical control of a vehicle while over the legal limit for their BAC.

If a police officer finds someone sleeping in their vehicle, the person in the vehicle is potentially at risk of arrest and prosecution. One urban legend claims that sleeping in the passenger seat or backseat of the vehicle could protect someone from DUI charges. However, it is not the seat that they are in but instead their ability to control the vehicle that puts them at risk of prosecution.

The presence of the keys inside the vehicle is one of the most important factors in a DUI case involving someone sleeping in a motor vehicle. Someone who asks a bartender or friend to hold on to their keys until the next morning could potentially sleep in their vehicle without risk of arrest on DUI charges.

Certain people may be in for a rude awakening when their attempt to make a safety-conscious decision backfires and leads to their prosecution. Learning more about how Virginia handles drunk driving cases can be beneficial for those who regularly consume alcohol and hope to avoid DUI charges. More scenarios than the average person realizes can potentially give the state grounds to prosecute them.