A typical arrest for driving while intoxicated involves a law enforcement officer pulling a driver over and concluding the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. That is not always the case, however. On the afternoon of January 21, 2020, a New York man was arrested and charged with DWI while sleeping in a parked car.
Police in Lake Luzerne, New York, responded to complaints of a reckless driver in the late afternoon hours of January 21. The callers reported a driver weaving in traffic and traveling in the opposite lane. The caller was able to describe the car and driver, which led police to track down 53-year-old John V. Mattison parked in front of a nearby private residence.
According to the police report, when officers approached the vehicle, Mattison was asleep behind the wheel. When the police roused Mattison, they immediately suspected that he was under the influence of alcohol. Ultimately, law enforcement placed Mattison under arrest for DWI and transported him to jail. In custody, a breath sample reflected that Mattison's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was 0.22 percent. This is close to three times the legal limit in the State of New York.
Sleeping it Off
It remains to be seen what Mr. Mattison's defense might be. A common claim in this situation is that the driver was just “sleeping it off.” Under Texas law, that might not be the best move.
Under state law, there is no requirement that you actually drive a vehicle in order to be guilty of DWI. In fact, the law only requires that you are “operating” a motor vehicle to be in violation of the DWI statute. The Texas Legislature provided no definition of what "operating" a motor vehicle means, however, Texas appellate courts have taken a fairly broad view of what that term operating means. In addition to driving a vehicle on a public roadway, operating could also include maintaining physical control of the vehicle. The court will weigh a number of factors in making this determination, but having the car running or keys in the ignition will often lead to a DWI charge. Was the vehicle registered to the purported driver? Was the car warm? Was the driver in close proximity to the vehicle? But with a board-certified DWI Defense Lawyer, that does not mean you will be convicted. There are successful legal arguments that can be advanced in Texas.
Testimony from Private Citizens
In the case of Mr. Mattison, there may be more evidence against him than simply sleeping in his car. After all, the police responded to his vehicle after receiving complaints of a reckless driver in the area.
While most DWI cases involve testimony from a police officer regarding a person's driving, a conviction is possible using the testimony of a civilian witness. Ultimately, it is up to the judge or jury to weigh the strength of a witness' testimony. If they find them believable, it could be enough to establish that a person was driving a vehicle on a public roadway.
Speak with a Houston DWI Lawyer
No matter the specific facts in your case, you are entitled to a vigorous defense if you have been charged with DWI. Attorney Doug Murphy is one of Houston's premiere DWI defense lawyers and looks forward to discussing your best defense options with you. To learn more, schedule your free case evaluation with the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. right away.