Can You Get a DUI Sleeping in an RV?


dui sleeping in rv lg

Many campgrounds permit alcohol, at least inside your RV. And with nowhere to go, some people drink a lot in and around their RV when it’s parked. But can you get a DUI sleeping in an RV?

Here’s what I found out:

An intoxicated RV owner can be charged with a DUI/DWI if the RV is parked in a public place such as a parking lot or on the street. However, this does not apply to campgrounds which are private property.

But that’s not all there is to know about sleeping while intoxicated in an RV.

After all, if the cop can’t see you inside the RV, how do they know you’re in there, and how would they know if you’ve been drinking? Do they need probable cause to knock on your door if you are parked legally?

Just keep reading!

Is it legal to drink alcohol while in an RV?

It is not legal to drink alcohol in an RV while the RV is driving or while it is parked on public property such as a street or parking lot. It is legal to consume alcohol when the RV is parked on private property such as a home or campground.

So, in short, if your RV is mobile, then it is illegal to drink. It is treated just like any other vehicle on the road. However, if your RV is stationary and set up, awnings down, blocked, and slides out, then it is ostensibly your home.

You can drink in it just like you would at home.

Of course, this assumes that you are at a campground that allows drinking. If you are at a state park, you should check local ordinances, as many state parks don’t allow alcohol.

If you are boondocking, you should also be aware of the local rules and regulations.

If you’re boondocking, you should be able to spend up to two weeks on average before needing to refill fuel, freshwater, and propane and dump your gray and black water tanks.

But there’s more to boondocking than just how long you can stay out.

Just read this recent article to learn how to boondock and how to maximize your reserves as long as comfortably possible. What really surprised me was how quickly the batteries drained. But there’s 1 way around that.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Can you get a DUI sleeping in an RV parked in a bar’s parking lot?

It is possible to get a DUI while parked in an RV parked in a bar’s lot. The police would see this no differently than if someone was passed out in a parked car.

In many states, if you are in physical control of your vehicle, you can be charged with DUI. This means that even if you are in the backseat with your keys in your pocket, you can be charged with a DUI.

The same logic applies when you are sleeping in your RV.

Even if your keys aren’t in your pocket, if your keys are nearby, there is nothing stopping you from firing up the vehicle and driving away.

And saying that you are “sleeping it off” is not going to get you out of trouble.

There are many retail stores that will allow you to park in their parking lots. Target, Walmart, Costco, and Sam’s Club are all RV-friendly.

But staying in a retail lot does not mean that you get to treat it like a campground.

When staying at a campground, you can drink just like you would at home. But in a parking lot, you won’t have the awning down and the grill out to stay a while.

You will only be parked there to sleep.

To read more about the etiquette of parking your RV in a parking lot, check out this recent article. Many of them only allow you to stay 1 night, and only 50% of Walmart stores actually allow it.

Just click the link to read it on my site and get a link to check which Walmart stores allow it.

Can you get a DUI sleeping in an RV parked on the street?

It is possible to get a DUI when intoxicated in an RV parked on the street. When an RV is parked on the street, the occupants are subject to the laws of the road.

Just like it’s not a good idea to sleep it off in a bar parking lot, it is not a good idea to sleep intoxicated parked on the street.

Most of the time, you’d be lucky if you could even find a place on the street to park your RV.

When you are parked on the street or even in a parking lot, you are considered a vehicle. When you are a vehicle, you must follow state DMV laws.

This means you can’t drink and drive, and you can’t sleep it off in the backseat when you are parked on the street. If you are parked way off the road on private property, you are much less likely to be bothered than if you are parked on the street.

You’re probably even less likely to be bothered if you are parked in a parking lot. But being parked on the street, it is too easy to just pull out and drive away.

Can passengers drink in an RV?

In some states, RV passengers can drink while the RV is in motion if they are in the coach area of the motorhome. But different states have different laws regarding drinking in an RV. Under no circumstances should the driver be able to reach an open container.

And most states don’t allow front-seat passengers to consume alcohol.

Some states base their laws on the length of the RV itself. Louisiana and Florida permit drinking in motorhomes if it is at least 21 feet long. In Texas, passengers in the coach area of a motorhome can drink, regardless of the length of the motorhome.

But in Wisconsin, RV passengers can’t drink at all. 

Of course, these laws don’t include 5th wheels, travel trailers, and the like. This is because you should never ride in a towed vehicle, no matter what state you’re in.

Because every state is going to have different open container laws, you should do your research before you allow any of your passengers to partake in mobile happy hour.

But really, the best practice is for no one to drink in an RV that is in motion.

Why do you get a DUI if you sleep in the backseat of your car drunk?

DUIs are issued even to persons asleep in the back seat of a parked car as there is nothing to prevent them from waking up and deciding to drive even when the blood/alcohol level is still over the legal limit.

The goal of DUI laws is to prevent people from driving drunk in the first place.

So, in most states, if you are in physical control of your car while you are under the influence, you can get charged with DUI.

In most states, you can get charged with DUI if you sleep in the backseat of your car drunk, even if you do not intend to drive.

Being in control of your vehicle doesn’t have to mean actually driving it. It can mean that you have the keys in your pocket. It doesn’t even matter where in the car you are sleeping.

Sleeping in the backseat of the car will have the same outcome as sleeping in the driver’s seat with the key in the ignition. Because ultimately, you’re just a few moments away from making a dangerous decision.

If you’re living full-time in your RV, and your keys are in a cabinet or otherwise out of reach, you’re less likely to get a DUI. After all, your RV is your home in this instance. But you still have to be careful where you park.

Living in an RV gives you the opportunity to explore lots of places and the ability to move seasonally.

It also means you will have fewer visits from friends and family. It can also make schooling your kids difficult. To read all of the pros and cons of full-time RV living, check out this recent article. There are TONS of pros for full-time RVing. But there is 1 reason I could never do it.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Avoiding a DUI in the RV Vanlife

Did I answer everything you wanted to know about whether you can get a DUI sleeping in an RV?

If you are set up at an RV park, with the awning out and the wheels blocked, you have the same freedoms that you do at home.

But if you are planning on drinking at a bar or restaurant, you should plan on having a designated driver. Driving a passenger vehicle after drinking isn’t a good idea. Driving an RV after drinking is an even worse idea.

You can get a DUI parked on the street or even in a parking lot. And in most states, it’s not legal to have open containers of alcohol in a motorhome. It’s simply not worth the risk.


Image by Steve Adcock from Pixabay and Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

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Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell travels on and off with his 3 daughters in a Newmar Baystar Class A Motorhome. He writes extensively on both RVs, campgrounds, parenting on the road tips, remote learning & schooling, and much more!

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