Can You Get A DUI For Sleeping in Your Car in Ohio? 

Written By: Moermond & Mulligan, LLC

Last Updated: 01-16-2024

Posted on Friday, December 15th, 2023 at 9:00 am    

Can You Get A DUI For Sleeping in Your Car in Ohio

Yes, it is possible to be charged with a DUI/OVI while sleeping intoxicated in your car in Ohio. You may think that because the vehicle isn’t moving and you have no intention of driving, you cannot be charged, but you can still be arrested for a DUI/OVI under certain circumstances if you are found to be in control of the vehicle.

If you are fighting a DUI/OVI charge in Ohio, call us. We want to talk to you about possible defenses in your case. At Moermond & Mulligan, LLC, you can speak to a lawyer about your case in a confidential consultation.

Is It Illegal to Sleep in Your Car in Ohio?

In general, sleeping in your car in Ohio is not illegal. For instance, if you are parked on private property with the property owner’s consent, sleeping in your car is not considered illegal. However, the location of the vehicle may prompt a police officer to investigate the circumstances just to be sure any vehicle occupants are safe.

Can You Get a DUI/OVI for Sleeping in Your Car in Ohio?

If you’re over the limit and decide to drive home, you could face a DUI/OVI charge if you later decide to sleep in your car. Falling asleep in the driver’s seat with the engine running can lead to a DUI arrest. This can happen even if it’s just to keep the heat or radio on in your parked car.

To avoid an OVI conviction, proving you weren’t operating the vehicle is crucial if you’re charged with an OVI. For example, if you sleep in the backseat or keep your keys in the glove compartment, trunk, or somewhere in the vehicle that is not immediately accessible, you may beat the charge. Further, law enforcement will have difficulty claiming you were operating the vehicle if your engine is off and you are parked in a legal spot in a parking lot. 

How Does Ohio Define “Operation” of a Vehicle?

Under Ohio law, “operation” of a vehicle means “to cause or have caused movement of a vehicle, streetcar, or trackless trolley.” The statute’s wording allows police officers not to require the observation of drunk driving. Instead, an officer can establish that the driver chose to operate a vehicle while intoxicated through circumstantial evidence, including:

  • The keys in the ignition
  • The car is running, or the hood is warm
  • The alleged drunk driver is sleeping in the driver’s seat
  • The vehicle’s location, whether near the accident scene or on the road’s side, can impact the situation.

Can You Get a DUI/OVI for Sleeping in the Passenger’s Seat or Backseat?

It depends on whether you have “physical control” over the vehicle. Ohio law specifies that physical control means being present in the driver’s seat with possession of the vehicle’s key or other ignition device. While this typically applies to the person in the driver’s seat, law enforcement may consider a person in the passenger’s seat to be in physical control under certain circumstances.

Law enforcement may initiate a DUI investigation if the vehicle’s keys are within reach of the person in the passenger seat and the evidence shows they recently operated the vehicle while they were under the influence of alcohol. However, the “physical control” required to support a DUI charge will not be established when the person is sleeping in the passenger’s seat with no access to the keys and no intention of operating the vehicle. 

Can You Get a DUI for Sleeping in Your Car on Private Property?

Ohio’s DUI laws do not distinguish between private and public property. In specific situations, law enforcement can arrest and charge you with a DUI, even when on private property and sleeping in your car.

How a Lawyer Can Help You Defend against a DUI/OVI Charge

an ovi dui defense lawyer in cincinnati explaining to their client the charges they are facingAt Moermond & Mulligan, LLC, we understand that you may be overwhelmed by the Ohio criminal justice system when you’re facing a DUI/OVI charge. An experienced traffic law attorney will assist you in navigating the legal system and crafting a defense tailored to your case’s circumstances. Your attorney will examine all available documentation, such as police reports, witness statements, and test results. They may assert defenses, including:

  • Lack of physical control
  • Invalid sobriety tests
  • Improper traffic stop without probable cause

Contact Our Experienced DUI/OVI Defense Lawyers

Facing a DUI/OVI charge in Ohio is stressful and perhaps a dark time in your life. With an experienced DUI/OVI defense lawyer from Moermond & Mulligan, LLC, you can rest assured that you have an advocate on your side to determine the best legal strategy to pursue the resolution you deserve while guiding you every step of the way. Call us today at (513) 421-9790 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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