The Sleeping Driver and DUI and Actual Physical Control of a Car

Law Office of W.F. ''Casey'' Ebsary Jr

The Sleeping Driver and DUI

Here are a few tips to avoid becoming the next sleeping driver with a DUI in Florida.

As the holiday travel season approaches, in Florida many people will be taking long trips by car. Some drivers may have had a bit to drink and be in actual physical control of their car.Is it safe to pull over and take a nap? That depends. If you have been drinking and have alcohol on your breath, it is likely that police may try to push the limits and arrest you. Even if you are a sleeping driver, not driving on the road, cops can bust you for being in Actual Physical Control of a Car while impaired or DUI.

“The firetruck’s air horn sounded and [the driver] rolled down his window, allowing [the officer] to smell the odor of alcohol emitting from him.”

Sleeping Driver DUI
Sleeping Driver DUI Actual Physical Control

Here Are a Few Tips for Pulling Over for a Nap:

  1. Park legally
  2. Shut off the engine
  3. Remove keys from ignition
  4. Roll up the windows
  5. Get out of the driver’s seat

Typically, the police will try to get you to roll down the windows and see if they smell the odor of alcohol emanating from your breath. While the police do have the opportunity to check on your welfare, they do not have the right to order you from the vehicle when they have not observed a violation of the law. I have found a recent court order where the judge ruled the police did not have the right to force someone to open the window of their vehicle after the police observed the driver sleeping.

The driver “was not obligated to roll down his window and acknowledge the officer.”

In one recent case, the officer observed a vehicle parked in a parking lot. The officer approached the vehicle to check on the driver’s welfare. Once the driver woke-up and responded,

and even though the driver was inactual physical control of the vehicle with the officer tapping on the window, the officer can not demand the driver to ultimately have the window of the car opened.

First responders used the loud horns of an ambulance to arouse the driver and when the driver opened the window in response to the ruckus. “[T]he firetruck’s air horn has sounded and [the driver] rolled down his window, allowing [the officer] to smell the odor of alcohol emitting from him.” The Court ruled that the officer had violated the Fourth Amendment since there was no reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The driver “was not obligated to roll down his window and acknowledge the officer.”

Here Is the Court’s Complete Sleeping Driver DUI Opinion:

Online Reference: FLWSUPP 2607BROW

STATE OF FLORIDA, Plaintiff, v. DONTAY DEJUAN BROWN, Defendant. County Court, 18th Judicial Circuit in and for Brevard County. Case No. 05-2017-CT-053213-AXXX-XX. May 8, 2018. Michelle V. Baker, Judge. Counsel: Annabelle Chambers, Office of the State Attorney, Titusville, for Plaintiff. Joel Leppard and Joe Easton, Leppard Law, Orlando, for Defendant.


THIS CAUSE came before the Court upon Defendant, Dontay Dejuan Brown’s Amended Motion to Suppress, filed on January 23, 2018 and heard on March 16, 2018. Having considered the Motion, evidence presented, and argument of counsel, the Court finds the following:

Sleeping Driver Spotted

On December 2, 2017, at approximately 7:00 a.m., the Titusville Police Department was contacted about an individual who was slumped over the steering wheel of an automobile that was parked in the Krystal’s parking lot. Titusville Police Officer Mark Fourtney responded to the location and observed the automobile, which was still running. The officer testified that there was no indication of any criminal activity and that he was there for a welfare check.

Officer Fourtney testified that he tapped on the window and the individual, later identified as Mr. Brown, raised his head slightly and rotated his body away from the window. Officer Fourtney continued to tap on the window. Meanwhile, the Titusville Fire Department, which had also been dispatched to the scene, arrived. Officer Fourtney stated that “the male is waking up but won’t open the door for me.” Thereafter, the firetruck’s air horn was sounded and Mr. Brown rolled down his window, allowing Officer Fourtney to smell the odor of alcohol emitting from him.

Demanding Sleeping Driver Attention

Mr. Brown argues that there was no need for a welfare check. The Court finds that the welfare check was permissible to the extent that Officer Fourtney was allowed to alleviate any concern’s he might have for the driver’s health. It is clear from Officer Fourtney’s testimony that there was nothing about the way or where the vehicle was parked that would indicate that there was anything wrong with the driver. The driver was slumped over the steering wheel, apparently asleep, and responded to the window taps by moving his body away from the noise. There was nothing about Mr. Brown’s behavior that indicated that he was incoherent.

Sleeping Driver Responsive

The two men did not engage in conversation at that time. Mr. Brown was also responsive, albeit not in the manner that Officer Fourtney desired. As part of a consensual encounter, Mr. Brown was not obligated to roll down his window and acknowledge the officer. Officer Fourtney’s persistence, although not verbal, in demanding Mr. Brown’s attention, after it was apparent that the Defendant was simply sleeping, runs afoul of Danielewicz v. State, 730 So. 2d 363 (Fla. 2d DCA 1999) [24 Fla. L. Weekly D793a] and Greider v. State, 977 So. 2d 789 (Fla. 2d DCA 2008) [33 Fla. L. Weekly D949b].

Investigation Not Based On Reasonable Suspicion

Contrary to the State’s assertion, this case is not factually similar to Dermio v. State, 112 So. 3d 551 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013) [38 Fla. L. Weekly D776a]. Dermio involved an individual who was found with his head “cocked to the left side and had a cell phone lodged between his shoulder and cheek.” Id. at 553. Further, the Defendant woke up but seemed “really out of it.” Id. Thus, the deputy had a continuing concern for Dermio’s safety. Id. Officer Fourtney’s community caretaker duty was satisfied when the Defendant simply rolled away from the noise. There was no other evidence observed by the officer that Mr. Brown was ill. Thereafter, the officer was proceeding with an investigation which was not based upon a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.

Accordingly, it is

ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the Defendant’s Amended Motion to Suppress is hereby GRANTED.

Florida’s DUI Actual Physical Control Law

316.193 Driving under the influence; penalties.—

(1) A person is guilty of the offense of driving under the influence and is subject to punishment as provided in subsection (2) if the person is driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle within this state and:

(a) The person is under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any chemical substance set forth in s. 877.111, or any substance controlled under chapter 893, when affected to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired;
(b) The person has a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood; or
(c) The person has a breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.

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