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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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