Law Blog

Physical Control – DUI Without the Driving

Washington imposes DUI-like penalties when one operates a motor vehicle, even if that person isn’t actively driving.  Defendants are often charged with Physical Control when they alleged to be intoxicated and in a stationary vehicle.

What is Physical Control?

“Physical Control” is not defined by statute.  Our courts have determined one to be in Physical Control when they are “in a position to physically regulate and determine movement or lack of movement of a vehicle.”*   Therefore, you can be charged with Physical Control in Washington if you are sitting in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition, the passenger seat, or even the back seat of a parked car.

Defenses to Physical Control

There are defenses available for Physical Control that are not available for DUI.  One defense is that the car was parked safely off the roadway.   The defense does not require one to have driven for the defense to apply, nor that the person have driven while intoxicated before moving it safely off the roadway.  A vehicle being inoperable is also a defense to a Physical Control charge.

The facts of every person’s case are unique, and the defenses described above may or may not apply to your case.  If you have been arrested or charged with Physical Control, give us a call for a free consultation.

*State v. Beck, 42 Wash.App. 12, 15 (Div. 1 1985)