When you’re out and you’ve had a few drinks, you likely know that you shouldn’t get behind the wheel of a car and drive. In an effort to be safe and protect yourself and others, you may make the decision to sleep in your car until you sober up. However, while this may be a safer option, it’s still not legal.
You may be surprised to learn that you don’t actually need to be driving a vehicle in order to be charged with DWI (driving while intoxicated) in North Carolina.
State DWI Laws
In North Carolina, in order to be found guilty of drunk driving, an individual must be operating a vehicle. But what specifically does it mean to “operate” one? Under state law, an operator is “a person in actual physical control of a vehicle which is in motion or which has the engine running.” Even if the vehicle is parked, if the engine is running someone can be charged with DWI – even if they are asleep. For instance, if it’s wintertime and you decide to sleep in the back seat of your car but you turn the car on solely for the heat, you could still be charged with DWI. However, if you are asleep in the back seat of your car but you do not turn the engine on, you may have a solid defense against DWI since you can argue that you were not operating the vehicle.
So What Should You Do Instead?
If you have been drinking it’s best not to sleep it off in your vehicle. Instead, try calling a friend or family member to come and pick you up. Alternatively, you can call a rideshare company, such as Uber or Lyft, to come and get you. Another possibility is to ask the host (if you are at someone’s house) if you can stay the night. If for whatever reason you have no choice but to sleep in your car, always do so in the back seat. But before you do, place the keys in the glove compartment, under the front seat, or in the trunk.
The Attorneys at Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Help Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with DWI
If you or a loved one has been charged with DWI, it can be extremely overwhelming – especially if you had no intention of driving. A conviction for DWI can have an immense impact on many aspects of your life. That is why it is in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we fully understand what is at stake and will do everything that we can to help you to fight these charges and obtain the best possible outcome. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!