Many people in Colorado who otherwise might drive intoxicated decide instead to sleep the alcohol off in their car. While this seems like a smart and safe decision for everyone, it could actually lead to the person getting a DUI charge.
Your case may come down to whether you can show you were not “driving.”
What does driving mean?
In such a situation, driving means you had actual physical control of the car. One important case that helped determine the law in this field is Swain. In that case, the defendant slept in his vehicle with the engine off on the side of an exit ramp. However, the car was playing music, and the keys were in the ignition. A later case, VanMatre, said that juries can weigh factors such as whether the defendant was conscious, if the windows were up or down, how operable the vehicle was and if the defendant was capable of starting the vehicle.
The bottom line is that whether an officer may consider you a “driver” while sleeping alcohol off in your car comes with a lot of gray areas. It is important to consult with a lawyer as early as possible so that you can prove your intentions to sleep it off reflected your actions.
Is this law fair?
Why is it fair that you could face a DUI charge for trying to do a good thing? It probably is not fair. What to keep in mind, though, is that the future is impossible to decipher. You may have been able to sleep for the entire night in your car and woken up sober. Someone else may have slept for only three hours and with plenty of alcohol still in his or her system, decided to drive home with disastrous results. Police officers would be accused of irresponsibility if they let someone drunk stay in their car, and that person later drove and caused damage or injuries.
Instead of sleeping it off, you may be safer taking a cab or rideshare home.