The Badger State is a dream for those who enjoy beer, wine and other types of alcohol. After all, the state has breweries, pubs and restaurants virtually everywhere. If you consume enough booze for your blood alcohol concentration to rise above 0.08%, though, you must be careful not to drink and drive. 

It is always better to sleep off a night of drinking than to climb behind the wheel and attempt to drive. Still, as a Wisconsin Dells man found out recently, sleeping in the wrong place may lead to charges for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. To understand why, you must know what state law considers operating a motor vehicle. 

Having physical control 

Like most people, you probably think OWI charges stem from roadside stops. While this certainly is often the case, you do not have to be driving to meet the elements of an OWI offense. If you have physical control of the vehicle, an officer may cite you. Sitting inside your car with access to your keys likely meets this standard. This is especially true if you are in the driver’s seat and have the keys in the ignition. 

Defending yourself 

If an officer arrests you on suspicion of OWI for sleeping in your vehicle, you likely have several ways to mount a defense. For example, you may choose to attack the validity of the breathalyzer or field sobriety tests. You also likely want to investigate whether the officer had probable cause. Additionally, you can always contrast your situation to other cases where judges or juries determined a defendant had physical control of the vehicle. 

To avoid OWI charges, you must not be in the position to control a motor vehicle after you have a BAC above the state’s legal limit for driving. Nonetheless, life has a way of getting in the way of anyone’s plans. If you are already facing OWI charges, understanding state law is vital for defending yourself effectively.