I Was Not Driving and Still Got a DUI?

Alcohol consumption in Mississippi and the United States in general is a time-honored tradition. However, as with anything, overindulging in alcohol or being irresponsible when consuming alcohol can lead to both personal and legal problems. Far too often, when adult beverages are consumed, many people still decide it’s “ok” to drive home. Additionally, there are those who instead choose to “sleep it off” in their vehicle. Though not driving is definitely a better option, sleeping after drinking while behind the wheel, even on private property, can still result in a DUI arrest.

Why Can’t I “Just Sleep It Off?”

It is a common misconception across the county that if you are intoxicated, you can “sleep it off” in your vehicle and be safe from a Dui arrest. Anyone’s vehicle can be stopped, the transmission put in park, and the engine turned and can still be arrested for a dui. Nation-wide there are states that recognize this as the “Shelter Doctrine”; i.e., I suddenly feel that I can no longer drive and I have pulled off the road to seek shelter in my vehicle. However, in most states like in Mississippi, this “shelter doctrine” is not recognized as a defense to driving under the influence.

Most recently, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a ruling affirming a DUI conviction when a man was sleeping in a car is his driveway. An anonymous caller reported that their neighbor was driving drunk and identified the vehicle. The officer located the vehicle and subsequently charged the person in the vehicle with a DUI. The Wisconsin Supreme Court held that there was probable cause because of the anonymous call and the “reasonable inference” indicated that the person had to drive to his parked location.

In Mississippi, the law is similar to that of Wisconsin stating that even though the law restricts the operation of a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher, the state must prove that the defendant operated the vehicle while impaired by alcohol. However, to prove the defendant was operating a motor vehicle, the state can us “circumstantial evidence” and “reasonable inferences” for proof and not just direct evidence or eye witness testimony.

Planning Ahead

Courts throughout Mississippi have continued to hold that a person can be convicted of DUI even if the engine is off, especially if the person is found in the driver’s seat. In order to avoid a similar situation, there are several options:

  1. You can call a taxi in larger cities.
  2. Contact rideshare services like uber or lyft which are on demand and widely available in Mississippi.
  3. Ask a friend or family member for a ride home. When you’re going out to enjoy adult beverages, plan to have a way home. Keep your cellphone charged and have your family/friend leave their phone on for your call.

In all honesty, the best way to avoid a DUI in Mississippi or similar states is to separate drinking from driving. However, given our proud American tradition of alcohol consumption, absolute avoidance is difficult. In any circumstance, if there is a possibility of drinking alcohol when away from home, it is critical to have a plan to not only avoid legal trouble, but more importantly, avoid risking your life or the lives of others. Almost every adult has access to a smart phone that can pull up phone numbers for taxi services or have rideshare applications like uber or lyft. Even if those options are not available, phoning a family member or friend to pick you up is always an option as well. Even though “sleeping it off” in a safely parked vehicle seems like the best option, it is only better than driving while intoxicated. Though you avoid the risk of injuring yourself or others, you are still subjecting yourself to the possibility of legal trouble with a potential DUI. Avoid all of these risks and potentially devasting penalties a DUI can carry by drinking responsibly, planning ahead, and utilizing all available options.

Enlist the Help of a Qualified DUI Attorney  

When you are searching the state of Mississippi for a qualified, experienced DUI defense attorney, look no further than Vic Carmody Jr., P.A. No matter the circumstances of your case, the sooner you get in touch with a qualified DUI defense attorney, the better chance you have for a favorable outcome.  Over the years, we have helped countless defendants who have been charged with DUI’s. Please call us for a free consultation today, and we can help you defend yourself when you are arrested and charged with a DUI in Mississippi.

Please also see us on mississippi-lawyers.com and view our reviews on avvo.com, superlawyers.com, and martindale.com. Our email address is vic@mississippi-lawyers.com, and our office phone number is (601) 948 – 4444 option 1.


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