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Sleeping in Your Car While Drunk in New York | What You Should Know

After over two years in lockdown, businesses, restaurants and bars are reopening. Even better, we are on the verge of spring. That means you can go out for a night of fun while still being safe. If you become drunk during your night out, you might take the seemingly responsible step of taking a taxi or sleeping in your car. But is the latter a crime? If you do not know the finer points of New York DUI and DWI laws, please read on, then contact an experienced Spring Valley DWI defense attorney to learn what you should know about sleeping in your car while drunk in New York.

Is sleeping in your car while drunk a crime in New York?

New York laws state: “No person shall operate a motor vehicle while the person’s ability to operate such motor vehicle is impaired by the consumption of alcohol.” We would be remiss if we did not point out that “operating a vehicle” is not the same as driving a vehicle. It is a lower standard. Technically speaking, you begin operating a motor vehicle the moment you turn on the engine. That means that, yes, sleeping in your car could be a crime in New York. It depends on the circumstances and the officer’s discretion.

When can you sleep in a running car while drunk in New York?

A host of factors go into whether or not DWI or DUI charges will stick for sleeping in a running car while drunk. Under the following factors, you may avoid a DWI or DUI conviction even if you were intoxicated and sitting behind the wheel:

  • No evidence exists that you had recently driven the vehicle
  • The prosecutor can’t prove you intended to move the vehicle
  • You had only turned on the for the sole purpose of staying warm.

While it probably would be safer to crack a window, the latter may also apply to air conditioning in the spring or summer months.

What constitutes evidence of intent to drive while drunk?

Establishing your state of mind is crucial in determining your guilt or innocence in a DUI case. Staggering out of a bar with your car keys in your hand, approaching the driver’s side of your car and getting behind the wheel is never a good look. Police can arrest you. In their eyes, you had clear and obvious intent of operating a motor vehicle. Nevertheless, these cases, yours included, are never so simple. Let a skilled Rockland County criminal defense attorney speak for you.


Kevin T. Conway has over 30 years of experience as a Spring Valley criminal attorney handling DUI, DWI, traffic violations, violent crimes, sex crimes, illegal gun possession, shoplifting, and juvenile crimes. Attorney Conway is also experienced in commercial law matters, zoning law, and estate planning. If you need a Rockland County criminal lawyer, contact our Spring Valley office for a free consultation.

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