Knowing the risks of drunk driving, you might decide that it is safer to sleep off alcohol in your car. Surprisingly, even if you do not plan on driving, you could still face driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges. The reason for this is that being inside your vehicle allows you to operate it and if you impulsively choose to do, risk putting other people in danger.
What does Virginia consider as “operating a vehicle”?
In Virginia, driving and operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated is unlawful. The term “operate” suggests that actions other than driving that allow you to control the vehicle physically may put you at risk of a DWI if you have alcohol or drugs in your system. Even seemingly harmless actions such as keeping the engine running while you are in the backseat, using the radio or simply having the keys in the ignition could constitute operating a vehicle.
Police patrolling the streets of Virginia could spot you dozing off inside your car and suspect intoxication. They’ll be looking for signs that indicate you are guilty of DWI even if your car was not moving.
Factors that may result in a nondriving DWI
Sleeping alcohol off in your car may appear responsible to you, but the law does not see it that way. Evidence of driving before stopping, having physical control of the car or having the intent to drive while intoxicated could potentially lead to an arrest.
The location of the keys, where in the car a drunken individual was sleeping and how warm the car is can play a role in proving DWI. If police find you sleeping in the driver’s seat with your keys in the ignition and the car still warm, they may suspect that you were driving just recently or plan to.
A DWI charge can result in license suspension for up to a year and a fine of up to $2,000. If your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.15% or higher, you might go to jail.
Facing arrest can be frustrating, especially when you thought you were acting responsibly. However, it’s advisable to maintain calm, avoid provoking the police officer and cooperate as much as possible during an arrest. It’ll also be good to remember that you have the right to remain silent until you have legal representation.