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Can I Get a DUI For Sleeping It Off In My Car?

Fun fact: during the New Year’s holiday of 2021-2022, south Florida reported no deadly DUI or BUI accidents. While that is an incredible achievement, it doesn’t mean that Florida has gotten any less strict regarding a DUI charge. Some people realize in the midst of driving drunk that they’ve made a terrible mistake, and want to remedy it. So what happens, for example, if you get caught while trying to sleep it off?

Today, we discuss what could happen if an officer finds you sleeping it off.

What Constitutes a DUI in Florida?

Florida has DUI laws that are very similar to other states. They determine your penalty based on whether you reached a certain BAC or blood alcohol level. You are driving drunk, legally, if you have a BAC of 0.08%.

This penalty is quite harsh for underage drinkers. Someone under the age of 21 will get a DUI if they have a BAC of just 0.02.

The higher your BAC is, the worse the penalty will be. A BAC of 0.15% (someone who is incredibly drunk) would result in an aggravated, enhanced penalty. In that case, you might have some questions for a DUI attorney about how to proceed.

Also, Florida is an implied consent state. Upon getting your driver’s license, you agree to submit to BAC testing when pulled over. Refusal to do so would result in a license suspension, provided the officer has reasonable suspicion.

Can You Get a DUI Charge for Sleeping It Off?

It would seem, in theory, that there is no crime if you are sleeping in a vehicle drunk. After all, a DUI (driving under the influence) involves handling the vehicle. Sleeping in a vehicle while drunk is not technically handling it, right?

That’s the case in many states, but not the state of Florida. While it is true that in Florida you must have “actual physical control,” that doesn’t mean you’re exempt because you’re sleeping.

A few factors may give an officer reasonable suspicion to arrest with a DUI conviction.

Your BAC

First of all, the officer will test your BAC if they suspect that you are drunk. If you have slept it off, you will still have some alcohol content in your blood. It may be less than the legal limit, but the officer might suspect it used to be higher when you stopped the vehicle to sleep.

It’s not conclusive evidence that you were above the 0.08% limit, but it does look suspicious. Any BAC at all will weaken your case before a judge and possibly lead to a DUI charge.

Alcohol in the Vehicle

Worse than BAC would be an alcohol container in the vehicle. Like most states, Florida has open bottle laws. Any open receptacles of alcohol in the vehicle even if you’re not drunk-will lead to harsh penalties.

Suppose you’re found to be sleeping and have no BAC, but there’s alcohol in the car. You could be in serious trouble even if you never drank.

Where You Are Sitting

It’s going to make a world of difference where you sleep in the vehicle. If you’re sleeping in the driver’s seat, then you are giving the officer more reasonable suspicion. After all, it looks like you were driving before you stopped to sleep.

This doesn’t mean that you’re off the hook if you’re sleeping in the passenger seat or in the back. Sleeping in a car in public places is still illegal in many public and private places in Florida. However, your legal help will have a stronger case if you’re not in the driver’s seat.

Where Your Car Is

Most people “sleep it off” only after they have started driving. It’s rare that somebody gets in their vehicle at a friend’s house or a bar solely with the intention of sleeping. Especially if it’s cold outside, such as during New Year!

Police officers will take note of where you parked. Are you parked on the shoulder of a highway, or in a parking lot on the way home? They will logically conclude that you drove there drunk, even though it would appear you got there safely and harmed no one.

Where the Keys Are

Another dead giveaway is where the keys are. DUI cases usually catch you with keys in the ignition. If you put the keys in the ignition, then it’s only logical that you were in active physical control at some point.

If the keys are not in the ignition, then the officer will check to see where they are. Even if they are in your pocket, that only makes your case a tiny bit stronger. Not having the keys will make it much harder for officers to prosecute you for a DUI according to Florida laws.

The Condition of the Vehicle

Another factor is whether or not the vehicle is in working condition. There is a chance that you broke down and had to pull over, rather than pulling over intentionally to sleep it off.

This could invite questions about whether reckless (and drunk) driving caused the car to break down, too.

Who Is Present

Another factor is who is present with you. Is there another adult present, or a minor who can drive? If they are in the driver’s seat or have the keys, then the officer might assume they’re a designated driver.

That said, the presence of a minor, for example, could result in a more severe penalty. The first offense of having a DUI with a minor sitting in the car could result in a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail. After all, it looks like you risked the life of a child while driving drunk.

Hire a Lawyer from RHINO

A DUI charge is a serious offense, but it requires you to be in active physical control of a vehicle. That said, sleeping it off in the car is a risky strategy to avoid a DUI. Officers will take careful note of circumstantial evidence and may still convict you with a DUI.

At RHINO Lawyers, we specialize in DUIs, and we have 14+ years of experience to back up our services. If you have a potential DUI charge, get a free case review here.


RHINO Lawyers can help and guide you through a system molded by law enforcement, judges, and lawyers for decades. Having won cases for our clients in similar circumstances, our criminal defense team knows what it takes to fight on your behalf.

Let RHINO Lawyers answer your questions and review the facts of your case with a Free Consultation. So, get started by completing the “Free Instant Case Evaluation” or by calling us any time, day or night, at (844) RHINO-77.