Physical Control & California DUIs

Most of us know that DUI stands for driving under the influence. A .08% blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, is the legal standard for being impaired by alcohol (though there are cases where you could be charged with a DUI despite chemical tests showing a BAC lower than .08%).

You may be surprised to learn that there is also a legal standard for what constitutes driving to help rule on cases where that comes into question.

Circumstantial Evidence

Let’s say a police officer finds you drunk and asleep in your car. Even if they have not seen you move the vehicle, you can be charged with a DUI. If the case went to court, the prosecutor would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you drove your car while drunk.

If there are no eyewitness reports or confession, how is this determined? Circumstantial evidence may be used to prove that you drove. Evidence that someone must have driven the vehicle, such as the vehicle is in the middle of traffic, can be used with the lack of other suspects to convict you of a DUI even if no one saw you drive your car.

“Actual Physical Control”

Now, let’s say there is no circumstantial evidence that the car has moved. Could you still be charged with driving under the influence? According to California Vehicle Code 305 VC, “a ‘driver’ is a person who drives or is in actual physical control of a vehicle”.

The term “actual physical control” defines situations where you can be charged with a DUI despite not driving your car. This term is defined by the ability to move the car. If you are drunk in your car and the keys are not in the ignition, you probably are not in “actual physical control” of your vehicle.

However, if the engine is running, but you left your car in park, you may not be considered in “actual physical control”. On the other hand, if you move your car even just a few inches, you could be convicted of a DUI.

If you are ever in a situation where you need to sober up or wait for a ride in your car, be extremely careful to not put yourself in a situation where you could be charged. If you are ever accused of a DUI, give our experienced Rancho Cucamonga criminal defense lawyers a call at (909) 328-6101 for a free consultation for your criminal case.

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