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DUI on Private Property

DUI on Private Property

This week I met with a young man who had a fight with his wife over the weekend after they had had a few beers.  Rather than continue to fight, he went out to his car that was parked in his driveway to cool down.  He turned on the car to warm it up a bit and listen to the radio and eventually fell asleep. An hour later, a police officer woke him up by pounding on the window and shining his light into the window.  Apparently, the officer was on patrol in the neighborhood and saw a person slumped over in the car and went up to check on my client.  Eventually the officer made my client get out of the car and arrested him for DUI.

He called me to talk about his case and this was his question, “Can I be arrested for DUI if I am sleeping in my car while it is parked on private property?”

Yes!  Under Utah law, a person can get a DUI on private property, on state park property, roads, even sitting in your car while it is in your driveway. The officer only has to show that you are the person “in control” of a vehicle and you are impaired or over a .08.

I’ve prosecuted many cases where a person gets into their parked car to sleep it off, starts the car to keep warm and ends up with a DUI! If you decide you shouldn’t be driving, pull over, put your keys in the trunk or glovebox and get into the back seat to sleep.  Don’t just lay the driver’s seat back and go to sleep!  If an officer stops to question you, remember to be polite when you talk to him.  But if you are on private property, all you are required by Utah law to do is give him your name…you do not have to give him your driver’s license, registration and insurance and you do NOT have to get out of your car and take field sobriety tests.

If this happens to you it is important that you talk to an attorney about your case!!

Remember, if you are approached by a police officer while you are in a car on private property:


1.     Be polite!

2.     Give him you name.

3.     Ask why you are being questioned.

4.     Nicely refuse to answer questions. If you talk, the officer is looking for slurred speech, and trying to smell alcohol.

5.     If the officer arrests you anyway and takes you to the station, AGREE TO TAKE THE BREATHYLIZER OR DO A REQUSTED BLOOD DRAW!! Refusing this test will get your license suspended for 18 months even if you are not convicted of DUI.


1.     Do not get out of the car unless the officer demands it.  (This lets the officer check out your balance to look for impairment.)

2.     Do not give him your license, insurance or registration.   (This lets the officer check to see if you fumble around looking for the paperwork.)

3.     Do not perform the field sobriety tests!  You DO NOT have to take this test and this includes the little portable breath tester that he carries in his car.


If this has happened to you, it is important that you talk to an attorney as soon as possible after your arrest.  To determine whether you were “in control” of your car, the courts look at a lot of factors including where the keys are, where you were seated, what led up to you getting into the car, whether the car was operational and a lot of other issues.  This is too complicated to handle by yourself and you should seek legal counsel.

The defense attorneys at ExProsecutors know all the arguments!  Don’t wait until you lose your license and end up with a DUI conviction.  Call (385) 232-5456 right away to set up a free consultation with an attorney to discuss your case.