Commitment To Justice

Is it legal to sleep it off in your car in Indiana?

On Behalf of | Jan 8, 2024 | OWI-DUI Defense

Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is maybe. If you are above the limit, you can’t legally be in control of a vehicle, according to Indiana law. If you’re sleeping in your car while drunk, there is nothing to stop you from waking up and turning that key thinking you’re sober – but you might not be.

Wait. Shouldn’t this be legal? Isn’t it better than drunk driving?

Indiana’s drunk driving law prohibits “operating” a vehicle with a 0.08% or greater blood-alcohol content, along with drugged driving. People have wondered if it’s fair to say someone was “operating” a vehicle if they were asleep and the car was turned off, for example.

Sometimes, the courts have ruled that the person was not in control of the vehicle. Indeed, courts can consider factors such as whether the engine was running, the location of the vehicle, and the person’s intent when deciding whether someone was “operating” the vehicle.

This could potentially be a defense in your case if there is persuasive evidence that you weren’t operating the vehicle.

For example, imagine a scenario where a man heads to his car after closing only to realize he is too drunk to operate it legally. His phone is dead and there’s no one to ask for help. Therefore, with limited options, he climbs in the back seat of the car to get sober. He falls asleep and the police discover him. Was he operating the vehicle? Perhaps not.

That said, law enforcement can be pretty skeptical of drunk people sleeping in cars. It’s probably not worth the risk of being arrested to test the theory.

As to whether Indiana law should discourage people from pulling over and sleeping when they realize they’re too drunk to drive? It’s an argument the legislature should consider.