If you have been charged with driving while under the influence (DUI) in New Jersey, you likely feel overwhelmed and confused as you may not have been driving at the time of the arrest. Under New Jersey law, you can be arrested for a DUI even without driving. Although you may believe that you are making the responsible decision to “sleep it off” in your vehicle when you’ve had too much to drink, the law does not agree. Depending on the circumstances, you can face harsh penalties for sleeping in your vehicle while intoxicated. If you have been charged with a DUI for sleeping while drinking in your car, don’t give up hope yet. The prosecution’s case hangs on whether you were in actual physical control of your vehicle. With years of experience, our talented Bergen County DUI Attorneys can help you explore available defenses and protect your rights. Keep reading to learn what it means to be in actual control of a vehicle.
Is sleeping in your vehicle while drunk illegal in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, the law technically never states that an individual needs to drive a motor vehicle to be charged with a DUI. Rather, an individual can be found guilty of a DUI if they are deemed to have been in actual physical control of the vehicle. Many people feel perplexed when understanding what it means to be in actual physical control of a vehicle. Essentially, being in actual physical control of a vehicle means that you reasonably could have driven. When determining whether an individual was in actual physical control of their vehicle, the court will consider a multitude of factors including:
- Where was the individual located inside the vehicle (behind the wheel or in the back seat)?
- Did the individual have the engine running?
- Where was the vehicle parked and how did it get there?
- Did the individual have the vehicle’s keys in their possession?
- Was the vehicle disabled (broken down)?
These factors are considered to determine whether an individual is in actual physical control of a vehicle and therefore can be charged with a DUI. For example, if you were sleeping while drunk in your car with the engine running, the keys in your possession, and you were located behind the wheel, you will likely be charged with DUI as you could have reasonably driven your vehicle while intoxicated despite not moving the vehicle. However, if you were seated in the back seat, the vehicle’s keys were not in your possession, and the engine was not running, you will likely not be charged with a DUI as you were not in actual physical control of your vehicle.
If you have been charged with a DUI for sleeping while drunk in your vehicle, the best way to protect your rights is to retain a determined Bergen County DUI attorney. Our firm is committed to helping our clients prove they were not in physical control of their vehicles.