This answer to this question states that the onus is on the defendent to prove they were not going to drive while they were unfit. Leaving aside the question about the flipped burden of proof, does this leave somebody open to the possibility of prosecution for having a few drinks at a place where they intend to spend the night, bedding down while over the limit then, for some reason, coming to the attention of the law and being found to be over the limit?

For example, Mr and Mrs BWFC park their van for the night in a place where they are fully permitted to park it and proceed to have a few local ales. They go to bed and in the night somebody drives into their parked van. The police attend and get out the breathalyser and ask everybody to give a sample. They decide that because Mr and Mrs BWFC were in the van at the time, they have to provide a sample. Mr BWFC's sample is over the legal limit and the wheels of justice start to grind.

Under section 4, subsection 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 as cited in the linked answer, it seems to me that an offence has been committed but the likelihood of charges would be low. The circumstances may be a little contrived in this case but they are not so unrealistic that the situation would never come up.

  • Section 3 is about "Careless, and inconsiderate, driving." Section 4 is about "Driving, or being in charge, when under influence of drink or drugs." Check the link? Section 5 is about "Driving or being in charge of a motor vehicle with alcohol concentration above prescribed limit."
    – Lag
    Nov 20, 2023 at 10:51
  • 1
    I've checked the link and read all of it and I can see where my confusion arose. The linked answer doesn't show all of the section and refers to subsection 3 as section 3. I'll edit the question.
    – BWFC
    Nov 20, 2023 at 11:00
  • In China, an urban legend-ish advice is to cover the windshield when drinking in an RV, to avoid any doubt that they intend to move the vehicle (although this is not clearly supported by legal codes or cases).
    – xngtng
    Nov 20, 2023 at 11:33
  • 3
    Given that one common place to sleep in a campervan overnight in the UK is the car park of a willing pub, and a business's car park can count as a public place this is quite a realistic situation.
    – Chris H
    Nov 20, 2023 at 14:56
  • In the US; various court rulings (the ones that stick to my mind the most is the firearm motorhome and search warrant motorhome ones); it's most definitely legal to sleep in the back of the camper van while drunk while the engine is running. The driver seat (and oddly enough, the front passenger seat) are not clearly permitted (and sleeping in the driver seat isn't wise anyway--sleep driving is a real thing).
    – Joshua
    Nov 20, 2023 at 15:59

2 Answers 2



Providing you can prove “that at the material time the circumstances were such that there was no likelihood of his driving”; being tucked up in your cot would seem to do that.


Section 4 Road Traffic Act 1988

4 Driving, or being in charge, when under influence of drink or drugs.

(1) A person who, when driving or attempting to drive a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place, is unfit to drive through drink or drugs is guilty of an offence.

(2) Without prejudice to subsection (1) above, a person who, when in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle which is on a road or other public place, is unfit to drive through drink or drugs is guilty of an offence.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (2) above, a person shall be deemed not to have been in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle if he proves that at the material time the circumstances were such that there was no likelihood of his driving it so long as he remained unfit to drive through drink or drugs.


The risk of a police officer being over-zealous in the context may be low but the consequences of that occurring could be high (particularly if your job requires you to drive), and it need not cost a lot to improve your chances of persuading the officer there was no likelihood of driving the vehicle.

Some organisations advise motorhome / campervan occupants to do things such as the following:

  • Park the vehicle where you mean to sleep and then go to the pub - don't move the vehicle later on

  • Don't cause an obstruction

  • Try to show that you don't intend to move the vehicle for the time being - put up the silver-screens, close the blinds, deploy steering locks, jacks, steadies, grip mats, levellers, chocks, slide-outs

  • Don't sleep in the driving seat if it's facing forwards (if you can sleep elsewhere, do so)

  • Don't keep the key in or near the ignition (if you have a safe, put it in there)

  • Don't start the engine or keep it running

  • Have to hand any evidence for the duration of your stay (e.g. bookings paperwork)

If you're not parked "on a road or other public place" then in theory you don't need to worry about the above. However, there is lots of land that you might think is privately owned but that case law says is a "public place", including pub car parks (depending) and roads in caravan parks (the plot itself is not a public place, but the road is if the public can freely use it).

Stephen Oldham Solicitors has a webpage about what is and isn't a road or other public place with statute and case law citations.

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