Babies do it. Older children do it. Adults can even do it — while they're passengers, at least.

A long car ride can lull a rider to sleep. Of course, there are penalties if a driver falls asleep behind the wheel and causes an incident.

But what about if a motorist pulls over, or is in a parking lot, and decides to take a siesta?

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Just sleeping in a car is not a crime, according to a blog entry from the Atlantic City-based Law Offices of John J. Zarych.

But there are notable exceptions that should be obvious to most.

Falling asleep while driving, according to the Zarych blog, could result quite literally in a charge of "tired driving," but the law office said police in the Garden State tend to classify this in most cases as either reckless or careless driving.

Causing injury or death to another person, meanwhile, could carry a charge of anything from endangerment (including reckless endangerment) to first-degree death by auto.

There is also "Maggie's Law," which has been on the books in New Jersey for two decades and automatically classifies driving while "knowingly fatigued" as reckless — fatigued in this case meaning being awake for 24 hours or more prior to an incident.

What about 'sleeping it off'?

Numerous law offices in New Jersey agree that state law is very broad when it comes to so-called "operating" a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

Zarych said even if stationary, having the engine on while drunk and sleepy might be enough to warrant a DWI charge.

And it could be less explicit than that. The law office said the state Supreme Court has upheld prior convictions in which a car was not on while a driver was sleeping but the keys were in the ignition.

There have even been cases that have resulted in charges against a driver if they were asleep in the driver's seat and their keys were within physical reach.

So, it is technically legal in New Jersey to stop a car and nod off ... but what seems to really matter is what a driver did just prior to falling asleep.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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