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Can I Be Charged with DUI in Pennsylvania If I Wasn’t Driving the Car?

Did you know that you don’t necessarily need to be “driving” in order to be charged with a DUI? That’s right. Under Pennsylvania law, police can charge you with driving under the influence if you are in what’s known as “actual physical control” of a vehicle. Actual physical control can mean that you are simply sitting in a parked vehicle without the vehicle moving. If that’s the case, then beware! You could be charged with a DUI.

A DUI can have a severe impact on your future. If you were charged with drinking and driving or driving under another influence in Pennsylvania, call Young, Marr & Associates today. Our Bucks County DUI defense lawyers are here to explain how “actual physical control” can affect your DUI prosecution.

What is “Actual Physical Control” in a Pennsylvania DUI Lawsuit?

The phrase “actual physical control” has not clearly been defined by the Pennsylvania courts. However, the courts have said that there must be something more than the driver of a vehicle sitting behind the wheel of a parked car. For instance, was the key in the ignition? Was the ignition turned on? How was the vehicle parked – was it within a parked spot, or parked in the middle of the road? Was the engine warm? Did the driver say he drove? The Courts will look to all of the facts and circumstances of a particular case in order to make a determination of whether actual physical control exists such that the driver may properly be charged with driving under the influence. An experienced Pennsylvania DUI attorney can help to defend you against these charges.

Here are some examples of when the courts have found that actual physical control exists:

  1. Driver was found sleeping in the driver’s seat of his car on the berm of the road with the engine and headlights on;
  2. Driver was parked in an alley with the motor running;
  3. Driver was found sleeping in the car without the engine running, but parked in the middle of the road;
  4. Driver was revving his engine while parked on the street in front of a bar;
  5. Driver was behind the wheel of his car which was parked diagonally across a roadway; the parking lights were on and the keys were in the ignition, even though the engine was not running;
  6. Driver’s car was found parked down an embankment by the roadside.

Actual Physical Control and DUI Prosecutions

In essence, the courts are looking for some evidence to show that the vehicle was driven prior to police arrival and that the driver had driven while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.

For example, in a recent case, the driver was parked in a parking space outside of a convenience store. Police arrived and found the driver unconscious behind the wheel of the vehicle. The keys were not in the ignition and the engine was not on. The officer arrested the driver and found open containers of alcohol in the back seat of the car. The Court, in this case, found that the driver was in actual physical control of the vehicle such that the driver was driving under the influence because it was reasonable to infer that the driver had driven to that parking spot while under the influence.

On the other hand, sometimes the courts are unable to infer that the driver actually drove while under the influence. For example, in another case, the driver was found by police to be laying on the street outside of a vehicle. The vehicle was parked outside of a residential home. The keys were not in the ignition. The driver, however, admitted to driving to the location. Under these circumstances, the court could not infer that the driver had actually driven to that location while intoxicated – the location of where the vehicle was parked was a residential neighborhood, and it was reasonable to infer that the driver had drank alcohol inside of the residence prior to ever being behind the wheel of the vehicle.

Call Our Pennsylvania DUI Defense Attorneys Today

If you’re charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania, it is crucial that you speak with an experienced DUI lawyer, one who knows the intricacies of DUI law. Just because you’ve been arrested doesn’t mean that you’re guilty. Speak with a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney at Young, Marr & Associates by calling (215) 372-8667 for a free consultation or to learn more information.



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Commonwealth v. "H" (DUI case)

Client was charged with three separate DUI cases calling for mandatory minimum imprisonment of 90 days on each case. Client was advised to seek immediate intensive alcohol counseling. Client was sentenced to 1 year of house arrest after serving 3 days in the county prison.


Commonwealth v. "C" (Felony drug/Firearms case)

Client was charged with felony Delivery of drugs and illegal gun possession and was facing a mandatory 3-6 year prison sentence in the State prison system. Client was sentenced to one year of house arrest.


Commonwealth v. "S"

Client was charged with simple assault, domestic. After a hearing where evidence and testimony was presented, the entire case was dismissed by Judge Leonard Brown.


State of New Jersey v. "H"

Charges for young man charged with second degree aggravated assault were downgraded to third degree and he was accepted into the County Pretrial Intervention program with charges to be dismissed and record expunged after one year of misconduct free behavior.


We have decades of experience dealing with local police departments, prosecutors, and judges throughout southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Anyone facing charges involving a criminal offense can expect to experience a heightened degree of emotional turmoil, for themselves, as well as their family members. Our team of highly qualified criminal law attorneys and expert legal support staff are committed to providing each of our client’s with the compassion and understanding they deserve, as well as an aggressive plan for representation at an affordable price.

As former prosecutors, we have a balanced and in-depth understanding of the criminal justice system and how the prosecution prepares cases. In addition, we have long-standing experience dealing with local police departments, prosecutors and judges throughout southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

At Young, Marr and Associates, when we say “experience matters,” we mean it. Our lawyers, which include two former prosecutors and a former senior deputy district attorney bring more than three decades of criminal law experience, handling more than 10,000 criminal cases. It is precisely that experience that allows us to achieve outstanding results for our clients facing DUI, traffic, felony and misdemeanor charges in state, federal and juvenile courts.