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Sleeping it off? DWI charges are still possible

On Behalf of | Feb 26, 2021 | Criminal Defense

There are many options individuals can take to avoid drunk driving and proactively prevent being charged with a DWI. Individuals can choose a designated sober driver or call a rideshare service, so they do not get behind the wheel after drinking. Some people might also consider sleeping it off in their vehicle, so they do not drive while impaired.

However, this is not the safest option. Even choosing not to drive under the influence and “sleep it off” could put individuals at risk of facing criminal charges.

Can you get a DWI even if you sleep it off?

The term “driving while impaired” would imply that individuals must actually be driving to face DWI charges. But under North Carolina law, that is not always the case. “Driving” covers more than that single action – it also encompasses the operation of the vehicle.

And operating a vehicle has a much broader definition than driving. This could also include many scenarios, such as:

  • Having car keys on one’s person or in the ignition
  • Sitting in the driver’s seat
  • Being in the vehicle with the engine running

Therefore, individuals could still face the risk of a DWI even if they park the car and fall asleep behind the wheel. Essentially, if police can infer that an impaired individual had the intention to drive or could have operated the vehicle, they can charge them with a DWI.

Sleeping it off might raise suspicion too

In North Carolina, police must have probable cause to:

  1. Pull someone over in a traffic stop
  2. Arrest the individual

Unfortunately, while sleeping it off might seem responsible, it might also lead police to believe the individual is impaired.

These circumstances can make DWI cases much more complex than they already are. It is critical that individuals understand these risks so they can take steps to prevent these situations, as well as defend their rights if they face such charges.