Can you get arrested for a DUI if you decide to sleep it off in your car

One of the most common questions I get asked is whether you can get a DUI if you try and do the right thing and you pull over your vehicle to sleep it off.  To the surprise of many by answer is unfortunately yes.  It is called DUI Physical Control and it carries the same sort of penalties a DUI does.  What is DUI Physical Control you ask?

Let’s say you’re out with some friends having some beers.  Pretty soon one beer turns into two and two turns into say sixteen.  Anyway you get in your car and start to drive away to go home.  On the way home you realize that you’re completely hammered and you should not be on the road.  So you decide to immediately pull over.  You park the car and decide to try and sleep it off.  Rather than getting out and calling a cab or something.

Typically the scenario ends with a police officer knocking on the window.  Observe you passed out.  Is finally able to get you to wake up.  The Police Officer observes you to be completely hammered, administers a few field sobriety tests, and then places you under arrest for Physical Control.  All because you were trying to do the right thing and sleep it off.

Now I personally believe this statute was created for situations where people were passed out in the middle of the street at a stop sign or red light.  Or they were involved in a single car accident and nobody saw the driving actually driving the vehicle.  Obviously wouldn’t be able to prove somebody drove in this situations and that is why Physical Control was created.

However I don’t believe it was intended for the situation I described above.  Where basically somebody is attempting to do the right thing and sleep it off.  However many Prosecutors feel it was created for that situation.  For example if you get arrested for Physical Control in Seattle than those Prosecutors will fight tooth and nail to convict you.  Even if you thought you were doing the right thing.

Now if you do find yourself in the situation I described above not all is lost.  There is actually a legal defense a driver can assert if arrested for Physical Control.  It is called safely off the roadway.  What that means is if prior to be pursued by law enforcement if you lawfully pull the vehicle off the roadway than it is a defense to the charge of Physical Control.

The issue then becomes what is considered a roadway.  Do you need to be in a parking lot to assert this defense, or can you be legally parked on the side of the road in a parallel parking spot.  This varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Because of that if you want to be absolutely safe always move your vehicle into some kind of parking lot completely off of the road.  Now to assert this defense that doesn’t always have to be the case, but if you want to be absolutely sure you’re doing everything possible.  Park your vehicle in a parking lot.  Take the keys out of the ignition.  And get into the back seat.

About the author:  Matthew Leyba is a DUI Lawyer in Seattle, WA.  He is the founder of Leyba Defense PLLC a law firm exclusively representing those charged with DUI and DUI related offenses.  He is currently rated a perfect 10 out of 10 by, and has been repeatedly recognized as one of the best DUI Lawyers in Seattle by the Seattle Met Megazine’s “Best of” edition.