DWI in Texas
Can You Be Charged If You’re Intoxicated in a Parked Car?
If you’ve been to a party or a bar and had too much to drink, sleeping in your car might seem better than getting behind the wheel and trying to make it home. After all, isn’t the purpose of the Texas DWI laws to keep drunk drivers off the road? Unfortunately, what may seem like a prudent course of action can still get you arrested. How can that be?
The Definition of “Driving While Intoxicated” in Texas
According to Texas law, a person can be charged and convicted of driving while intoxicated if they are is found to be “operating” a motor vehicle while impaired because of alcohol. You can be charged even if the police officer did not actually observe you drinking and driving. In fact, you can be charged even if you’re not legally intoxicated when the police pull you over, question you, or take you into custody. The key question is whether there’s credible evidence to show that, at some point, you were driving while inebriated. If there’s no direct evidence that you were drinking and driving (e.g., witnesses saw you or you admit to it), police can use circumstantial evidence to detain you, and prosecutors can use that same circumstantial evidence to convict you.
What Types of Circumstantial Evidence Can Be Used to Show You Were Driving While Intoxicated?
Circumstantial evidence does not come from direct observation; rather, it’s inferred from the circumstances surrounding an event. If you’re in a parked car when police arrive, there can be many types of circumstantial evidence to indicate that you were drinking and driving:
- You may be sitting or sleeping in the driver’s seat, which suggests that you were there earlier.
- Law enforcement officers may find empty alcoholic beverage containers in your vehicle or nearby.
- Your engine may be running, even though the vehicle is in “Park.”
- The engine, tires, or interior of the vehicle may be warm, suggesting that the car has recently been running.
- There may be witnesses who saw you at a bar or party and observed your behavior, either seeing that you were visibly intoxicated or watching you consume sufficient quantities of alcohol to be legally above the limit.
- The distance your car has traveled from the bar, party, or place you were observed drinking is such that you could only have traveled that far if you were driving the vehicle.
- There’s no evidence that anyone else has been in your car.
Minimizing the Risk of a DWI If You Sleep in Your Car When Drunk
Often, staying in your car will be the best (or perhaps only) option when you have had too much to drink. If you do, there are ways to minimize the risk of a DWI charge:
- Don’t start your car – If there’s little or no evidence that your car has been running, police will have a harder time convincing the court that you were drinking and driving.
- Leave your keys somewhere else – If you conclude that sleeping in your car is the safest thing to do, leave your keys at the bar or with another person. If you are not in possession of the keys, it will be hard to convince a jury that you were driving.
- Sleep in the back seat – If you do, police and prosecutors will need additional circumstantial evidence to show that you were ever at the wheel of the car.
- Don’t park by the side of the road – If you do, you’ll have to explain how you got there. Stay in the parking lot of the bar or party, if possible. It will then be more plausible to believe that you got in your car but never actually drove it.
Contact the Experienced Drunk-Driving Attorneys at Bailey & Galyen
At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we offer a free initial consultation to every client. For an appointment with an aggressive and knowledgeable drunk-driving defense lawyer, contact us by email or call our offices at 844-402-2992. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.