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Can I get a DWI if I’m just sleeping in my car?

On Behalf of | May 15, 2024 | Drunk Driving

In Texas, DWI laws are strict. Indeed, most laws in the state are strict. Though, unlike most other laws, DWI laws even pose potential legal pitfalls even when not actively driving. And, as a result, a common question is whether one can face a DWI charge while sleeping in their car under the influence.

Deciphering DWI laws

Texas defines DWI as operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated in a public place. However, the term “operating” lacks explicit definition. This leads to varied interpretations in courts. This has led to instances where individuals faced DWI charges despite not actively driving.

The ambiguity of operating

The crux lies in what constitutes the operation of a vehicle. Texas courts consider factors like the driver’s location, key position and engine status. Sitting in the driver’s seat with keys in the ignition might qualify as operating even if the vehicle remains stationary. Merely being in the car with access to controls has sufficed for a DWI charge.

The weight of circumstantial evidence

Circumstantial evidence holds sway. If officers suspect intent to drive or prior driving, a DWI charge looms. Factors like engine warmth or witness statements influence such determinations too.


While you may have made a bad decision to drive while intoxicated, you may think that the safer option is to pull over, and you may be right. It is safer than drunk driving. However, the law may not care. While sleeping off intoxication in a car aims to avoid driving, Texas law does not always offer sanctuary. The broad interpretation of operating encompasses non-driving actions. Understanding these nuances is vital to steer clear of inadvertent DWI charges.