Drunk Man Claims He Right to Sleep in Car
Nov. 14, 2003
CLAREMONT, N.H. (AP) _ William Winstead of Georgia, Vt., said he was just sleeping in his car letting time pass until he was sober enough to drive. He had the engine on to keep warm.
But Claremont police said he was drinking and driving, and on Wednesday the New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed, upholding Winstead's conviction.
Winstead, 25, was arrested on April 6, 2002 the parking lot of the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Claremont. He had been dropped off by a friend after returning from a club in Keene, N.H., Winstead said.
The friend was the group's designated driver, Winstead said.
``I didn't want to force my friend to drive another 20 to 25 minutes out of the way, so I told him to drop me off at my car and I'd sleep it off,'' said Winstead, who was living in Lempster but later moved to Vermont.
Winstead went to sleep with the car running, in neutral, and the emergency brake on, and he kept sleeping until Claremont police officer Shawn Hallock woke him around 3 a.m.
Winstead admitted that he drank a six-pack of Bacardi Silvers that night. But when he took the breathalyzer test, he passed both times, he said. According to the breathalyzer, he had a .07 blood-alcohol content and could legally drive, he said.
He told Hallock that he was planning to stay sleeping in the car until he felt sober enough to drive home. Hallock then asked Winstead to take a blood test.
``He said he wanted to check for drugs, which I had no problem with because Ive never taken drugs,'' Winstead said. The blood test showed no drugs, but it did show that he was legally drunk.
Winstead fought the case all the way to the state Supreme Court. He said the lower courts erred in allowing the blood test to be used. He questioned why he was disturbed sleeping in his car while there were people sleeping in recreation vehicles nearby who were not disturbed.
And he argued that he wasn't driving.
But the Supreme Court sided with police on all three. Because Winstead agreed to the blood test, the lower courts could use it as evidence, the court said. It said no constitutional argument was raised against police disturbing a man in a Saturn as opposed to a recreational vehicle in the lower courts, so it could not be reviewed in the higher court.
And it agreed with prosecutors who said that Winstead met the New Hampshire standard for being in actual physical control of the motor vehicle, although he was asleep.
``I'm dead-set against drunk driving. I was trying to do the right thing,'' he said. ``I mean, what else could I do? Stumble around Wal-Mart until I got arrested for disorderly conduct?''