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What is actual physical control of a car and why does it matter?

On Behalf of | Apr 25, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

When people generally think about drunk driving charges, they imagine that they are driving down the road at night when the police pull them over and discover that they’re intoxicated. As long as they aren’t driving, they assume that they can’t get a DUI.

This is generally true, in the sense that DUI laws do center around people who are driving their vehicles and most arrests are made this way. However, the law technically only states that you have to be in actual physical control. This does mean that you could get charged even if you are not actively driving at the moment.

Behind the wheel

What is really important is if it appears that you’re controlling the vehicle, even when it isn’t moving. If you’re sitting in the driver’s seat, behind the wheel, and the keys are in that car’s ignition, the police could claim that you are in actual control of that vehicle. You may be stopped on the side of the road and not moving at all, but you could still face DUI charges.

This is important in cases where someone decides to pull over and take a nap, perhaps because they started driving and then realized they were too intoxicated. They may think that stopping is going to prevent them from causing an accident and prevent them from getting arrested. While it is certainly safer to stop and sleep in the car, don’t assume this means you can’t be arrested if the police come upon your vehicle and find that you are asleep in the driver’s seat.

If you have been given DUI charges and you’re concerned about your future, take the time to carefully consider your legal options carefully before you decide what steps to take next.