Ohio Revised Code section 4511.194 authorizes law enforcement to charge you with an offense related to drunk driving if you have “physical control” of a vehicle. While sleeping in the driver’s seat of a parked car, it may appear as though you intended to turn on the ignition and drive away.
Generally, the offense is a misdemeanor. A conviction, however, may result in a suspended driver’s license, as noted by the Ohio Department of Public Safety. To convict, a prosecutor must provide proof of your impairment and also show you had physical control over your vehicle.
How can a field sobriety test lead to a charge?
An officer may approach your parked vehicle and ask you to perform a field sobriety test if he or she suspects impairment. Leaving a parked car’s headlights on or trunk open may raise suspicions of intoxication.
If you show confusion or slur your words, the officer may seek proof of impairment. As noted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a field sobriety test may include walking and turning or standing on one leg. If you fail to perform successfully, an officer may administer a roadside breath test.
How can I defend myself for sleeping in my car?
Several defenses may counter allegations that you had physical control of your vehicle while impaired. An intent to start a parked vehicle and drive may require evidence of the keys in the ignition. A defense may also rest on a faulty breath or blood test that provided inaccurate results.
To avoid risking a license suspension, plan ahead. Be prepared with an alternate means of getting home if and when needed, such as a ride-hailing service or a friend picking you up. If far from home, staying at a motel may prove a reasonable option.