Hard to imagine, but some motor vehicle drivers manage to sleep their way into a DWI arrest. One recent media report perfectly illustrates the hazard. The report indicates that San Antonio police arrested a state senator's chief of staff on a DWI charge after the officers found the staffer asleep behind the wheel of the running vehicle. The arrest occurred in the middle of the night in the parking lot of a local establishment where, the report infers, the staffer may have imbibed until the establishment's closing. The staffer allegedly failed a field sobriety test after officers awoke the staffer from his slumber within the running vehicle.
Whether Sleeping Can Be Operating the Vehicle
Sleeping in a vehicle hardly looks as if one is operating the vehicle as a DWI charge requires. But sleeping one's way into a DWI may actually not be all that unusual. This particular story surely made the news because of the state senator's headline-reported termination of the DWI-charged staffer. Alcohol is, after all, a depressant. When the bars close very late at night, expelling intoxicated patrons into their parking lots, those patrons are already prone to close their eyes, lay back, and rest. And where better to do so than one's secure and comfortable vehicle?
The sleepily intoxicated vehicle owner's problem, though, is that Texas's DWI laws do not require the defendant's intent to drive somewhere. Instead, case interpretations of the DWI laws confirm that the defendant need only have exerted personal effort to control the vehicle, to commit the DWI crime. In other words, operating the vehicle need not mean putting it into gear to drive it away. The question of what constitutes enough control to constitute operation is what can make for a good DWI defense. But prosecutors will argue that personal effort to control can include one or more of the following actions:
- sitting behind the wheel as a driver would;
- putting the key in the vehicle's ignition preparing to start or starting it;
- starting the vehicle from any position within it;
- putting one's seatbelt on;
- turning on headlights or windshield wipers; and
- turning on heat or air conditioning.
Expert DWI Defense Defeats a Questionable DWI Charge
Sleeping in a vehicle while intoxicated does not on its face mean operating the vehicle so as to commit a DWI. Aggressive DWI defense representation may succeed in casting reasonable doubt on the prosecutor's case that the sleeping defendant was the vehicle's operator within the terms, interpretations, and reasonable applications of Texas DWI law. In short, don't give in to a DWI prosecution if the circumstances raise significant questions over whether your actions constituted operating the vehicle.
If you face a sleeping-it-off DWI charge, or a charge that implicates similar questions of the vehicle's operation, then be sure to retain Board Certified DWI Specialist Doug Murphy. Attorney Murphy employs the premier skills of a national DWI defense expert to beat questionable DWI charges. To beat your Texas DWI charge, rely on 2021 Houston DWI Lawyer of the Year Doug Murphy for your aggressive and effective DWI defense. Attorney Murphy is one of only two Texas lawyers holding both DWI Board Certification and Criminal Law Certification. Contact Doug Murphy Law Firm online or at (713) 229-8333 to discuss your case today.