Criminal Law Blog

Sleeping while drunk in the driver’s seat of a parked car with the engine running is driving under the influence, and you really should have known that



Mohamed Fadul v. District of Columbia, No. 13-CT-226 (January 22, 2015).
 
Players:  Associate Judges Glickman & McLeese, Senior Judge Nebeker.  Opinion by Senior Judge Nebeker.  M. Kamionski for Mr. Fadul.  Trial Judge:  Truman A. Morrison III
 
Facts:   Mr. Fadul was found asleep in the driver’s seat of a parked car.  His urine showed that he was intoxicated.  He was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI).  
 
Issue 1:  Was there sufficient evidence that the defendant “operate[d]” and was “in physical control” of the parked vehicle as required by the DUI statute?
 
Holding 1:  Yes.  Operating a vehicle means being capable of putting the vehicle into movement or preventing its movement.  It is not limited to actual driving.  Thus, a person sleeping in the driver’s seat of a parked car with the engine idling is operating and in physical control of the car.
 
Issue 2:  Is the DUI statute unconstitutionally vague because a reasonable person could not have been on notice that sleeping in a parked car could violate the statute?
 
Holding 2:  No.  Because the court has consistently interpreted operation and “in physical control” to mean being capable of putting the vehicle into motion rather than actually moving, a person could have reasonably understood that sleeping in the driver’s seat with the engine running while intoxicated would violate the statute. DG