Can I Be Charged with Drunk Driving for Sitting in My Vehicle?

Sometimes, it’s easy for even just a drink or two to catch up with you. As you walk to your car, you realize it would be unsafe to drive. In this situation, you may decide to simply “sleep it off” in your car – a decision that’s definitely better than drinking and driving.

Although this is a more responsible option, you could still be charged with drunk driving. A person can be charged with drinking and driving if they have “care and control” of their vehicle, whether they are actually driving their car, or just sitting in the driver’s seat with the engine turned off. Under the law, an individual could even be sleeping and still be charged with a drinking and driving offence.


This may sound harsh, but the law is designed to prevent drunk driving. When a person is intoxicated, he or she is not thinking reasonably or rationally. You might have initially decided to wait in your vehicle for a friend to pick you up, or for a cab to take you home, but you could technically change your mind at any time.

However, an experienced criminal defence lawyer can usually argue that the circumstances surrounding your case make it unjust to charge you with drinking and driving. This is exactly what happened in 2012 in R v. Boudreault, in which the Supreme Court of Canada decided an individual was not guilty of drinking and driving, despite having had care and control of his vehicle, because he was waiting in his car for a cab to pick him up. The Court said his case should not result in an automatic conviction.

On the other hand, it is best not to rely on an exception to the general rule. If you must wait for a friend or a cab to pick you up, it’s a good idea to find another place besides the driver’s seat.

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