DWI “Physical Control” – Can I get a DWI while sleeping in my parked car?
Yes, you can be charged with a DWI while sleeping in your parked car. Per Minnesota DWI Statute, it is a crime for any person to drive, operate, or be in physical control of any motor vehicle while under the influence. Being in “physical control” of the vehicle only requires you to be within proximity of the vehicle controls and to have “easy access” to the keys while under the influence. This means you could be charged with a DWI while sleeping in your car while under the influence. Placing the keys in the passenger or middle console is not enough as you still have “easy access” to the keys. Even sleeping in the backseat with the keys inside the car could lead to a DWI charge.
Options if you must “sleep it off” in your car
If you have a car that actually requires putting the physical key into the ignition instead of a wireless key fob, it is easier to avoid a possible DWI. We recommend you never sleep it off in your car; however, if you must there are some options to better protect yourself. You could put your keys in your trunk, in the gas cap, or outside your car in your wheel well. All of these places would require you to exit the car; therefore, likely not meeting the “easy access” requirement.
If you have a car with a wireless key fob, this is a little more difficult as some cars have been shown to operate even with the fob in the trunk. As this is still a semi-new feature, there are not many cases that have addressed this issue yet. However, a possible option is to remove the battery, thus making the fob inoperable, and place the fob inside your trunk, in the gas cap, or outside your car in the wheel well.
Keep in mind that each DWI situation is unique and that following the above options will not guarantee no charge if you are found sleeping in your car while intoxicated. There is a range of case results related to this topic, so the safest way to avoid a possible DWI situation is to not sleep it off in your car. Even if you follow the above options it is still possible to be charged with a DWI.
What are my options to get home if I’ve had too much to drink?
If you’ve been at the bar and had too much to drink, there are various options for getting home safe or at least getting somewhere to sleep. We recommend going home with a friend; calling a friend to pick you up; calling an Uber, Lyft, taxi, or similar company; walking to a hotel; or public transportation. The availability of these options depends on your location. If all these options fail you could resort to sleeping in your car; however, this comes with possible risks and is not recommended.