Can you be arrested for drunk driving if you are drunk and sleeping in your car? A case was recently heard in New Jersey’s Madison Joint Municipal Court.

The defendant was a retired police officer. The 72-year-old man was charged with DWI after police had found him snoozing in the driver’s seat of his vehicle. The engine was running.

The man was acquitted of the charges because the prosecutor said he couldn’t prove that the man had any intention of driving or even had driven the car. The prosecution also couldn’t prove how the car got to the local Elks lodge.

Under the state’s DWI statute, the state can convict someone solely on evidence the officer sees at the time of the arrest. The man’s attorney referenced a case from 1973 where another man was charged with DWI under similar circumstances. That case went all the way to the New Jersey Supreme Court. The ruling in that case stated, “We conclude… that in addition to starting the engine, evidence of intent to drive or move the vehicle at the time must appear.”

It is up to the judge to determine what the man’s intent was. This judge ruled that the man did not have the intent to drive while intoxicated; however, not every judge rules the same. One man commented on NJ.com that he was convicted of DWI when his car wasn’t running and the keys weren’t in the ignition.

A spokesman for the Parsippany Police Department said that was possible. However, the officer who made the arrest would have to articulate that the motorist did indeed intend to drive.

The law may have been behind the former police officer, but it’s not worth it to risk a conviction. An attorney who is experienced in DWI cases would be a good choice if you are facing charges for drunk driving.

Source: NJ.com, “Thinking of sleeping off that beer binge in your car? Think again,” Fausto Giovanny Pinto, NJ Advance Media, June 16, 2016