“Sleeping It Off” in Colorado Can Still Get You a DUI

Usually, people do not start off the day planning to drive drunk at some point. Oftentimes, people do not realize that they are too impaired to drive until they are already behind the wheel. Sometimes, it may seem logical at that point to make a safer decision and pull over to “sleep it off” until you are sober enough to drive. It may seem that this decision not only keeps the driver and potential victims safe, but that it also serves to prevent a DUI, but this is not always the case. In order to be convicted of a DUI, the state needs to prove that you were driving. For individuals who are pulled over on a roadway, proving that they were driving is usually fairly easy. However, there are cases in which the “driving” element is more difficult to prove.

“Actual Physical Control”

Colorado law omits a formal definition of driving, but courts have made several important decisions regarding the word over the years. One of those decisions is that in order for a person to be considered driving, he or she needs to have “actual physical control” over a vehicle, exercising physical influence over that vehicle. Five factors may be used in determining whether or not an individual has actual physical control over a vehicle, which include:

  • Where the vehicle was found;
  • Where in the vehicle the person was found;
  • Whether or not the keys were in the motor vehicle’s ignition;
  • Whether or not the motor vehicle was running; and
  • Any other factor which tends to indicate that the person exercised bodily influence or direction over a motor vehicle or not based on your everyday experience.

The decision also notes that no one factor from that list will definitively prove whether or not a person exercised actual physical control over a vehicle.

Several other cases have provided some additional context as to what qualifies as driving. Colorado courts have determined that individuals sleeping or passed out in their cars with the keys in the ignition are driving for purposes of a DUI charge even when the car’s engine is off. Further cases have also said that individuals on private property can be cited for driving under the influence, so even being parked on private property to sleep off intoxication could still result in a DUI charge.

Legal Assistance with Colorado DUIs

Facing a DUI can be an intimidating experience given that conviction can bring severe consequences, especially in situations in which you tried to make a safer choice but received a DUI charge anyway. However, by working with an experienced Colorado DUI attorney you will not have to face your charges alone. If you are facing Colorado DUI charges, contact the criminal defense team at Tiftickjian Law Firm to schedule a consultation where you can find out more about your charges as well as possible options that may be available to you in your defense.

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(image courtesy of Ridham Nagralawala)