By the time people are old enough to consume alcohol, it is well-ingrained in their minds that they should not drink and drive. We are told the responsible thing to do is to simply not get behind the wheel. However, life is not always that simple. Sometimes, your vehicle is the only place where you can “sleep it off.”

People are often surprised to learn that being drunk inside your vehicle, even if it is parked and turned off, is in fact a way that you can get arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated, or OWI. You think you are doing the right thing. Instead, you discover that even having the keys in your hand is cause for suspicion of OWI. As Wisconsin OWI lawyers, we know that this is a rare occurrence, but it happens more often than you would think.


OWI, or operating while intoxicated, is unique since the term is used broadly in Wisconsin. Operating and driving are two different things in the eyes of our criminal court system. For example, legally, operating a vehicle is defined as the manipulation or activation of the vehicle’s controls that put it in motion. Some examples of these actions include:

  • Using the heating or A/C system
  • Listening to music
  • Turning on exterior and interior lights

Since the concept of operating a case is critical to the case against you, speaking with a Wisconsin OWI lawyer can help understand if your charges are valid. Remember that you are innocent until proven guilty even if it does not seem that way at the moment you are taken into custody.


The truth is that many people get away with sleeping in their vehicles to avoid getting an OWI. However, some do not. Usually, a person gets arrested after being spotted sleeping behind the wheel of a running vehicle. A concerned citizen is often well-meaning and trying to help. After investigating, the police may or may not arrest the individual for OWI, depending upon the circumstances.

If you have been arrested for OWI, remember that it is not guaranteed that you will be convicted. Experienced Wisconsin OWI lawyers are adept at defending you in the courtroom. The prosecution has to prove you are guilty through direct evidence. The best thing to do, for now, is to communicate with your attorney and attend all court hearings as directed.

Finding yourself in this situation is stressful. The experienced OWI attorneys of Otto Family Law are here to help. Our team of criminal law attorneys has more than 40 years of aggregate experience to put behind your case. We offer our clients multiple payment options to access skilled representation at any income level. You can schedule a free consultation with our office by calling (715) 200-4206 or by completing our online form.