Many people are unaware of the fact that in most states, you can be charged with a DUI offense for sleeping in your car while intoxicated. Specifically, the law in many states dictates that a person can be charged with DUI if they are in actual physical control of a car while intoxicated, regardless of whether they are driving or intend to drive. Recently, the New Hampshire legislature weighed the benefits and detriments of modifying the DUI statute to permit drivers to sleep in their cars without being charged with DUI. While laws modifying the DUI statute have yet to pass, it is interesting to consider how the proposed modification could affect the laws in other states, such as Illinois, where drivers can be convicted of DUI for sleeping in cars while intoxicated. If you are faced with an Illinois DUI charge after you were arrested while sleeping in your car, you should speak with a knowledgeable DUI defense attorney regarding your case.
Proposed Changes to New Hampshire DUI Laws
It is reported that the New Hampshire Senate passed a bill that would create exceptions to the current DUI law. Specifically, the bill would modify the current law to include certain exclusions for the definition of driving and actual physical control, including people who are sleeping in the car. Advocates of the bill argue that it is necessary to prevent people who are trying to sleep off intoxication before driving home from being harassed by police officers. Those in opposition are less convinced that the modifications are wise, stating that the burden is then placed on the police to determine if a person intends to drive. Opponents argue that a person sleeping in a car can advise the police that he or she does not intend to drive and then drive a short time later, causing a devastating accident. Currently, it appears that the bill will need to be modified before it will be approved by the House.
DUI Charge for Sleeping in a Car
Under Illinois law, a person can be charged with and convicted of DUI for being in actual physical control of the vehicle while impaired due to the ingestion of alcohol. The courts have interpreted physical control to mean that the defendant was in the vehicle and in a position to start the engine and move the vehicle, thereby exercising control over the vehicle. Thus, the courts have held that people sleeping in vehicles in Illinois are guilty of DUI, regardless of whether they intended to drive. The courts generally assess whether a defendant had the keys to the vehicle in his or her possession, whether there was anyone else in the vehicle, and whether the defendant had the ability to drive the vehicle to determine if the defendant was in actual physical control of the vehicle.