Rhode Island Criminal Lawyer

Can I Get A DUI for Being Drunk in a Parked Car?

Jan, 13 2021 - By: S. Joshua Macktaz, Esq.
Being Drunk in a Parked Car

A parked car DUI is a situation that can be very disappointing. You probably thought it was a good idea to stay in your parked car and sleep, rather than drink and drive. Then, a police officer shows up and you’re arrested for a DUI. 

Anyone with a driver’s license knows that operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol is illegal in every state. However, the details in drunk driving statutes can appear confusing in Rhode Island DUI laws. It’s important to understand the consequences of a wide range of drunk driving scenarios. For instance, what if you’re not operating a vehicle while intoxicated? What if you’re simply in a parked car? What if you’re asleep? Can you be charged with a DUI in a parked car? Many people have been surprised by these answers. Below we explore the different ways you can be charged with a DUI in Rhode Island without actually driving.

Circumstances of a DUI Arrest in a Parked Car

In the state of Rhode Island, you can be arrested for a DUI while in a parked car. In fact, it’s likely that a Rhode Island police officer will arrest someone if they’re visibly intoxicated in a car, even if the car is parked. But there are many extenuating circumstances that need to be considered before a DUI conviction takes place. The prosecutor will need to prove that the alleged drunk driver was actually in control of the vehicle. 

But what exactly classifies as “control”? This is why it’s critical to have an experienced Rhode Island DUI attorney defend you if you’ve been arrested for a DUI in a parked car. A DUI lawyer will be able to examine the circumstances surrounding your DUI arrest and be able to create the best possible defense around the key factors that a judge or jury will consider. For instance, the main considerations around a DUI charge that took place in a parked car will include:

  • The position of the alleged drunk driver in the car
  • The location of the parked car  
  • The location of the keys
  • If the engine was or was not running
  • If the alleged drunk driver was asleep or awake

The Position of the Driver

The position of the driver is a major determining factor in DUI cases that involve a parked vehicle. A judge or jury will be more likely to convict someone of a DUI if they’re in close proximity to the driver’s seat. In fact, it’s important to know that it’s specifically the ignition that prosecutors use to tie the driver to  ‘controlling’ the vehicle. While these inches here and there near the ignition may seem arbitrary, they can mean a lot when it comes to the prosecutor’s argument. If an alleged drunk driver is in the backseat or asleep in the passenger’s seat, a Rhode Island DUI attorney will present this fact and propose that the case be dismissed. 

The Location of the Car

The location of the vehicle can say a lot about the driver’s intentions in these DUI cases. It’s important to remember that if the car is parked on the side of the road or in a public parking lot, the prosecutor will attempt to prove that the driver operated the car while intoxicated. For instance, if you’re arrested for a DUI while parked in your own driveway, the prosecutor can argue that you were drunk, drove home, and subsequently fell asleep in your car. If you were parked at the location where you were drinking, such as a bar or a house party, your defense lawyer can argue that you never left that location, and therefore, never drove the car. Regardless of the location of the car at the time of your DUI arrest, it’s important to contact a Rhode Island DUI attorney as soon as possible. 

The Location of the Keys

Because you need keys to start a car, the location of the keys is a critical detail in the prosecutor’s case. If keys are found at the bottom of a bag or in the back seat, it’s much easier for your DUI attorney to prove that you had no intention to drive the car. If the keys are found in the ignition or even near the ignition, the chances of a DUI conviction are much higher. However, if you own a newer vehicle that doesn’t require keys to be in the ignition to start the car, this factor becomes questionable. Newer cars have keys that only need to be in the vehicle to start it. In these cases, it’s more difficult to determine the intention of the driver. It’s highly recommended to contact a Rhode Island criminal defense attorney immediately if your DUI arrest occurred while parked in a vehicle with this type of keyless ignition. 

Was the Engine Running?

As you can imagine, if the car’s engine is running, this significantly increases the chances of a DUI conviction. However, this specific factor goes hand and hand with the position of the driver. For instance, if it’s a hot night in the middle of the summer and a driver has fallen asleep and only turned the car on with the intention of using the air conditioner, a DUI attorney can use this as a strong defense. If the driver has fallen asleep in the front seat with the car running, this is a different story. If you were charged with a DUI in a parked car while the car was running, contact a Rhode Island DUI attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options. 

Was the Driver Awake or Asleep?

A judge or jury will want to know if a driver was asleep at the time of their DUI arrest. The state of consciousness of the driver will be a major point of consideration in a DUI case. Regardless if a driver was asleep or awake at the time of a DUI arrest in a parked car, it’s important to discuss these circumstances with an experienced DUI lawyer. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Parked Car DUI

What if I was trying to be safe and sleep it off in my car?

It’s common for drivers to provide this reason for why they were drunk in a parked car. It’s a rational action. You’re drunk, you don’t want to drive, so you decide to sleep it off before operating the vehicle. While the intention of the driver is considered, it’s not the final factor in a DUI conviction. Even if your intentions were focused on safety and the entire reason why you didn’t drive was to avoid a DUI arrest, you can still be arrested, charged, and convicted of a DUI if you were in a parked car. If you fell asleep in a parked car with the intention to be safe, but you still got arrested for a DUI, contact a Rhode Island DUI defense attorney right away. 

Can you get a DUI if you’re parked in a bar parking lot and didn’t drive?

The location of the vehicle is a major factor in a DUI conviction decision. Your DUI lawyer can present a strong defense if your car was parked in a bar parking lot at the time of your DUI arrest. If your car is in a bar parking lot, it can be argued that you never drove the vehicle while intoxicated. A DUI lawyer can showcase that the driver never left the location where he or she became intoxicated in the first place. 

Can you get a DUI if you’re parked on the shoulder of a highway while you are drunk?

Again, the location of the parked car means a lot in a DUI conviction decision. Being parked on the side of a highway likely means that the driver was intoxicated and drove the car at some point. In this scenario, it’s essential to hire a DUI attorney to handle your case. The prosecutor can point to the location of the vehicle as strong evidence that the driver drove while drunk. If you were parked on the side of a highway or a street at the time of your DUI, contact a Rhode Island DUI attorney immediately. 

How can a DUI attorney help me if I’ve been arrested for a DUI in a parked car?

There are various paths to a strong defense in these types of DUI cases. An experienced Rhode Island DUI attorney will be able to examine the circumstances around your case and present a defense that proves you were trying to avoid harming yourself, pedestrians, or other drivers by remaining in a parked car while intoxicated. Call (401) 861-1155 our law office today if you’ve been charged with a DUI in a parked car to discuss your options. 

If You’ve Been Charged with Being Drunk in a Parked Car

Many people believe these situations are DUI myths that only happen to a few people in random states. The truth is thousands of people all over the country have been charged with being drunk in a parked car. If this has happened to you, it’s important to call a DUI defense attorney as soon as possible. A legal professional can explain your options and guide you through the defense process.

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