In Missouri, Can You Get a DWI for “Sleeping it Off” in Your Car?

When they’ve have had too much to drink an aren’t sure what to do, some motorists make the choice of “sleeping it off” in their car before heading home. Others get on the road only to realize that they shouldn’t be operating a vehicle, and pull over to sober up. 

But you should know that you can be arrested and charged for drunk driving even if your car isn’t moving. 

Let’s take a closer look at the laws surrounding being drunk and asleep at the wheel in St. Louis and Missouri. 

DWI While Asleep At The Wheel In Missouri 

It seems pretty straightforward that it’s illegal to operate a vehicle in Missouri if you are intoxicated by alcohol or drugs. But what does “operating a vehicle” mean? Under the law, it means, “physically driving, operating, or being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle.” 

Since that definition also isn’t crystal clear, cases have gone to the Missouri Supreme Court about the issue – and in the past, the court has ruled that if the key is in the ignition, the engine is running, and the person is in the driver’s seat, they are legally operating a vehicle. 

For example, in 2000, the State v. Wiles Missouri Supreme Court case found that a man was indeed operating his vehicle even though he had passed out at the wheel while his car was running but idling in park. The man, Ronald Wiles, had parked his car at an angle near a dumpster and passed out at the wheel. His parking lights, headlights, and brake lights were on, and one foot was on the brake while the other was on the gas. Although neither hand was on the steering wheel, the court ruled that he was, indeed, in physical control of the vehicle. 

How To Avoid A “Sleeping It Off” DWI In Missouri 

The very best way to avoid a DWI while “sleeping it off” is to have a safe alternative means of getting home if you drink too much, such as public transportation, a ride with a friend, a ride service, walking home, or spending the night with a friend.

Be aware that during Missouri’s cold winters, it may be dangerous to sleep in your car, especially after drinking, because of the risk of hypothermia or even death. While it’s good to keep an emergency sleeping bag or blanket in your car, it’s better to have a plan for getting home if you’re going to be drinking. 

Get Legal Representation From An Experienced St. Louis DWI Attorney 

St. Louis DWI attorney Grant Shostak is committed to helping his clients get through the often stressful and overwhelming experience of being charged with a DWI – and with the best outcome possible for your case. To learn more, get your FREE copy of the Missouri DWI Survival Guide, or by calling DWI attorney Grant Shostak at (314) 380-3059.

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