Everyone knows not to drink and drive, or you’ll get a DUI. But, what if you’re drinking but not driving? What if you’re parked and about to go inside to your humble abode? Unfortunately, the law is a little fuzzy when it comes to this particular situation. Many people don’t realize they can be drinking, not driving, but still get all the repercussions.

In many states, you can get a DUI by sitting in a car without evidence that you were driving. In fact, driving isn’t required and it comes down to whether you were “operating” or in “physical control” of the vehicle. However, in California, an officer does need witnesses to support the claim you are driving under the influence.

Some people choose to use their car while they’re drunk to “sleep it off” until they become sober enough to drive again. In California, as long as you’re not driving the vehicle, it’s legal to be inside the vehicle while drunk. However, it’s important to be underneath the legal driving limit once you start to drive the vehicle. Remember that just because you don’t feel as drunk as when you first entered the car, doesn’t mean you’re within the legal driving limit.

Facts about DUI charges in CA

California prohibits all drivers to be over the legal limit of .08% blood alcohol content (BAC).

For some drivers, stricter BAC limits are applied. 

  • For commercial drivers the legal BAC limit is .04% 
  • For underage drivers the legal BAC limit is .01% 

If you’re convicted of a DUI in California, the penalty you receive is significantly determined by your prior convictions. 

  • A first DUI is a misdemeanor, and carries $390 to $1000 in fines, plus penalty assessments. It’s possible for offenders to receive 48 hours to 6 months jail time for a first offense, but unlikely. 
  • A second DUI conviction is also a misdemeanor and carries the same penalties as a first offense. Offenders can also face higher jail time – up to one year. 
  • A third DUI conviction is still a misdemeanor, carries the same penalties, but results in a jail sentence of 120 days to one year. Most offenders must also complete 3-5 years of informal probation. 

If someone drives under the influence in California and causes an accident or causes injury or death, these are aggravating factors that can result in a felony DUI with more serious consequences. 

Evidence officers can use for a DUI

Officers always need probable cause in order to detain someone. However, if you were asleep in the car or pulled over on the roadside, that would provide the probable cause. Officers can use different types of evidence to try to prove that the vehicle was recently in motion. For example, if you were asleep in the vehicle but the car keys were in the ignition, that could be used as evidence that the car was recently in motion. 

Officers can also use whether: 

  • the car’s engine is running, 
  • the engine or the tires are warm, 
  • the car is located in somewhere inappropriate, 
  • the gear is in drive,  
  • the vehicle is damaged or near the scene of an accident, 
  • there’s lack of credible explanation from the driver  
  • there’s witness statements

So in order to avoid being arrested for sleeping in your car while driving, do not have alcohol containers in your car. Always ensure that your car is not obstructing any roadways. Do not sleep with your keys in the ignition. However, be aware that being in your car while drunk is suspicious and there is a chance that an officer will bring you to the station. To avoid this altogether, call a rideshare service to pick you up and get your car at a later time. 

How to build a defense

If an officer does attempt to arrest you for a DUI, it’s important to get a strong defense. In California, criminal defense attorneys often use a “probable cause defense” for their clients. Experienced defense attorneys use this to refute a DUI because since it’s legal to sit in a parked car without driving it, there’s no probable cause to prove that the person was drunk while driving the car. As stated earlier, prosecutors can use evidence stated above such as, the car’s engine being warm or even slurred speech. However, these are all things that can be refuted by a competent attorney. Part of the probable cause defense means that the defense needs to provide hard facts that someone was actually driving the car while drunk. Without this, there’s no real evidence that you should be arrested for a DUI. 

For more information on how to get the best defense attorney for your DUI case, contact our legal team for the best support. Getting a DUI can set you back and once you’ve been arrested for a DUI, it’s easy to think there’s no way out. However, with a good legal team you can get the support and guidance you need to prove your case. Connect with us today at 562-991-6298 for a free and in-depth case evaluation.