Parking While Intoxicated, Really? Why “Sleeping it Off” in Your Vehicle Isn’t the Best Decision

Well, it has finally warmed up and the cold weather from earlier in the year is now just a dim memory, which can only mean one thing: Time for a trip to the Jersey Shore. But aside from the weather, what we’d like to talk about today is the potential for getting a drunken driving ticket without ever hitting the road. This may be a point of contention between the police, local prosecutors and drunk driving defense attorneys, but it may be instructive to point out a few things.

As New Jersey DWI-DUI defense lawyers, I and my staff of highly qualified litigators understand how easy it can be for drivers in the Garden State to get caught up in a drunken driving arrest. Not only is drinking and driving grounds for being charged with DWI, but operating a vehicle while impaired by prescription medication, whether doctor-prescribed or over-the-counter, can yield a drug DUI summons as well.

In our last post, we mentioned a case where a driver was arrested and charged with drunk driving while sitting in a running vehicle on the roadside. Although this may seem to be an odd scenario, there have been many instances where individuals have been arrested by the police as they slept in their parked vehicles. An interesting point about being accused of intoxicated driving is that one doesn’t always need to be drunk on an actual public roadway to end up being arrested for DWI-DUI.

We know of many instances where a driver was simply sitting in his or her vehicle when a police officer approached the car vehicle. Once the officer detected the smell of alcohol and satisfied himself as to the impairment of the suspect, the driver in many cases was arrested for DWI even though he was not driving the vehicle and the car or truck was stationary with the transmission in park. It has happened, and it likely will happen again.

Numerous drunken driving arrests occur each week here in the Garden State, and while the average motorist may feel that he would never allow himself to drive while inebriated, it is important to remind people that so-called “drinking and parking” is a real risk that many people take without considering the consequences; the results of such a seemingly innocent situation can be just as potentially costly as if the person had gone out on a public road with a 0.08 percent BAC or more. Take for instance a couple news articles from earlier this year.

According to news reports, a woman who apparently had a little too much to drink reportedly fell asleep in her vehicle over in Roselle Park, NJ. Police reports indicated that the 28-year-old was in the running vehicle with the radio turned up fairly loud. A call to police regarding the excessive noise brought officers to the location, after which they determined that the individual was allegedly intoxicated. She was reportedly charged with DWI, as well as being arrested on outstanding warrants.

In a second instance, another person was discovered by police sleeping in his vehicle in a Target department store parking lot in South Brunswick, NJ. According to police officers, a 33-year-old Hamilton Township man was observed sleeping in his parked car a little past 2am on a Wednesday morning. Officers on the scene stated that the headlights were on and the vehicle’s engine was running.

Based on reports, officers knocked on the car’s window to wake the man up, after which we exhibited what police described as slurred speech and the strong odor of alcohol on his breath. Following a field sobriety test, the suspect was arrested and taken into custody. He was charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, as well as careless driving. After processing, the man was released pending a courtroom appearance.

Driver found sleeping in his car at Target is charged with DWI, NJ.com, April 13, 2013
Woman asleep in car charged with DWI in Roselle Park, NJ.com, March 15, 2013