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Maryland DUI: I’m Asleep in My Parked Car, Can I Be Arrested for DUI?


Driving under the influence (DUI) laws are stringent across the United States, and Maryland is no exception. While the primary intention is to prevent intoxicated individuals from operating a vehicle, a lesser-known fact is that simply being in your car while intoxicated—even if you’re not driving—can lead to a DUI arrest.

This includes instances where you might think you’re responsibly sleeping it off. This situation can be particularly tricky in Maryland due to the state’s laws regarding DUIs and the interpretation of “control” of a vehicle. This article will explain how “sleeping it off” in your vehicle after you’ve been drinking can lead to a DUI arrest in Maryland. 

Understanding Maryland’s DUI Laws

In Maryland, the law prohibits driving or attempting to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, what many people are unaware of is that being in “actual physical control” of a vehicle while intoxicated can also lead to a DUI charge.

The term “actual physical control” refers to the capability and power to manage, direct, or operate a vehicle, regardless of whether the vehicle is in motion. This means that even if you’re not actively driving the car if you have the ability to start the vehicle and put it in motion, you can be considered in control of it.

The Risks of Sleeping it Off in Your Car in Maryland

Imagine you’ve had a few drinks at a gathering or a bar and decide it’s not safe to drive home. You make the responsible decision to sleep in your car until you’re sober enough to drive. However, in the eyes of the law, if you’re inside the car with access to the keys and the ability to start the engine, even if you’re in the backseat or passenger seat, you could be deemed to be in “actual physical control” of the vehicle.

Factors That Could Lead to a DUI Arrest

Several factors could contribute to a DUI arrest while sleeping in your car in Maryland:

  • Access to Keys — If you’re inside the car and have access to the keys, whether in the ignition, your pocket, or even nearby, law enforcement could interpret it as having control over the car.
  • Intent to Drive — Law enforcement might consider your intent to drive, especially if the engine is warm or the keys are in the ignition. Even if you claim you had no intention to drive, proving it might be challenging.
  • Location of the Vehicle — Where your car is parked matters. If it’s parked in a way that suggests you were planning to drive soon (e.g., facing the road, in a parking lot with the intent to leave), it might contribute to the perception of control.
  • Your Condition — Your level of intoxication, demeanor, and any signs of impairment when interacting with law enforcement can impact their judgment regarding your driving ability.

Legal Consequences of a DUI Arrest in Maryland

A DUI arrest in Maryland can lead to severe consequences, up to and including jail time—especially for repeat offenses or if your actions result in harm to others. Here are the penalties for a DUI charge in Maryland:

  • First Offense — Up to $1,000 fine, up to a year in jail, driver’s license revoked for up to six months
  • Second Offense — Up to $2,000 fine, up to two years in jail with a mandatory five-day minimum, driver’s license revoked for up to a year
  • Third Offense — Up to $3,000 fine, up to three years in jail with a mandatory ten-day minimum if your last offense was within five years, driver’s license revoked for up to a year and a half.

In addition, repeat offenders in Maryland will be required to participate in the state’s Ignition Interlock Program. An Ignition Interlock Device (IID) is a device that tests a driver’s BAC (blood alcohol concentration) before the vehicle starts.

Protecting Yourself Against Legal Ramification of a DUI

If you’ve been drinking, it’s always safer to find an alternative way to get home than to risk the potential legal ramifications of being in control of a vehicle while under the influence. To avoid a potential DUI arrest while sleeping it off in your car:

  • Designate a Driver — Always have a designated driver or plan alternative transportation to ensure you don’t have to make a decision about sleeping in your car while intoxicated.
  • Stay Away from the Driver’s Seat — If you need to rest, consider sleeping in the backseat or passenger seat, away from the steering wheel, and ensure the keys are out of reach.
  • Use Ride-Sharing Services — Use ride-sharing apps like Uber or Lyft or arrange a taxi to get home safely.
  • Seek Shelter — If possible, find a safe place indoors to sleep or wait until you’re sober enough to drive.

Don’t Face Your DUI Charge Alone. Turn to Jeremy Widder Law

While the intention behind DUI laws is to keep roads safe, the interpretation of being in “actual physical control” of a vehicle in Maryland can pose risks, even when you’re trying to act responsibly by not driving while intoxicated. Understanding these nuances and taking proactive measures to avoid such situations can help you stay safe and prevent potential legal consequences. 

Jeremy Widder Law delivers top-notch legal services backed by years of experience. With the strict penalties you face when being charged with a DUI, we are ready to dedicate time, resources, and energy to support you from beginning to end. We will listen to your story and advocate for you.

Contact us today for a consultation.


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