Is it a Crime to Sleep in Your Car?

November 10, 2020
In some circumstances you could be charged with a criminal offence for sleeping in your car.
In some circumstances you could be charged with a criminal offence for sleeping in your car.

Sleeping in your car could be a crime. Determining whether it is a crime to sleep in a vehicle depends on the facts of a particular matter. In the event you are intoxicated and sleeping in your car, you could be charged under s. 253(1) of the criminal code which states:

every one commits an offence who operates a motor vehicle or vessel or operates or assists in the operation of an aircraft or of railway equipment or has the care or control of a motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railway equipment, whether it is in motion or not,

  • (a) while the person’s ability to operate the vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railway equipment is impaired by alcohol or a drug; or
  • (b) having consumed alcohol in such a quantity that the concentration in the person’s blood exceeds eighty milligrams of alcohol in one hundred millilitres of blood.

(2) For greater certainty, the reference to impairment by alcohol or a drug in paragraph (1)(a) includes impairment by a combination of alcohol and a drug.

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The courts have ruled that, depending on the facts, a suspect may have “care or control of a motor vehicle” while intoxicated and sleeping in the driver’s seat. There is no requirement that a suspect is actually caught craving to be charged with this law, being found in “care or control” of a vehicle is enough to be charged with driving under the influence.

The Supreme Court of Canada in R v Boudreault ruled that “care or control” of a motor vehicle means:

1)    an intentional course of conduct associated with a motor vehicle

2)    by a person whose ability to drive is impaired, or whose blood alcohol level exceeds the legal limit

3)    in circumstances that creates a realistic risk of danger to persons or property

  1. a.     The crown bears the onus to prove that the risk of danger is real and not merely theoretically possible.
  2. b.     In the absence of contrary evidence, a realistic risk will be a reasonable inference where the crown ha proven impairment and a present ability to set the vehicle in motion.

A person found in the driver’s seat is presumed to have care or control of the vehicle. The onus is on the accused to establish that he or she did not have the intention to drive.

In R v Boudreault, the accused was intoxicated and aware that he could not drive his car home. He decided to call a cab to pick him up. Since it was a morning in the winter, Boudreault decided to get into his car, start it and turned on the heat. He fell asleep. The taxi driver that arrived called the police who then charged Boudreault with driving under the influence. The Supreme Court of Canada convicted Boudreault since he was sleeping in the driver’s seat, the keys were in the ignition and the engine was running and his blood alcohol level was over the legal limit at the time.

It should be noted that each case will be determined based on its facts. Adding some facts in this case or the removal of others may result in a different result.

If charged with care and control, it is in your best interest to hire an experience criminal defence lawyer. Contact Kostman and Pyzer Barristers to defend your rights.

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