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What ‘actual physical control’ means in Washington DUI charges

On Behalf of | Mar 23, 2023 | DUI |

In a DUI charge, an arresting officer catches the driver red-handed or while committing the offense. On the other hand, in an actual physical control charge, the arrest happens after committing the offense.

According to state law, a person only needs to be in “actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug.”

A closer look at “actual physical control”

It may be more difficult for an officer to gather evidence against a charge of actual physical control, but it is possible.

Although the statute does not explicitly define it, a physical control charge can look like the following:

  • A driver is unconscious outside of the vehicle
  • A person sleeping inside a car in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition
  • A drunk driver who grabs the steering wheel even for a moment
  • A vehicle ran out of gas while the keys were in the ignition and the driver was sleeping in the vehicle

It is not enough to have actual physical control of the car. The trial must prove without reasonable doubt that the driver was under the influence for any conviction.

The penalties are the same as a DUI

Once the court convicts a person of actual physical control charges, the penalties are the same as DUI charges. The driver may be facing license suspension and incarceration. A DUI conviction is Washington is not eligible for expungement.

Officers arrest and prosecute drivers even though their breathalyzer and blood tests did not indicate intoxication above the legal limit. Every person has a right to a vigorous defense no matter the circumstances.