Physical Control Of Vehicle Under The Influence

Roger Priest is a criminal defense attorney in Vancouver WA with extensive courtroom experience in Washington’s DUI laws

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Have you been charged with Physical Control of a Vehicle While Under the Influence?  What does this even mean?  You may be confused why you thought you were arrested for a DUI but ended up with this charge instead.  Maybe you thought you couldn’t be charged with a crime, because you weren’t even caught driving.  If you are confused, you are not alone.  Everyone is familiar with a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) charge, but few people have heard of Washington’s other “Under the Influence” charge of Physical Control of a Vehicle While Under the Influence.

Elements Of Physical Control

RCW 46.61.504 defines Physical control of a vehicle under the influence as a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.  It also can carry a license suspension from 90 day to several years depending on your criminal history.  A conviction will typically require that you carry SR-22 insurance for 36 months as well as equip your vehicle with an ignition interlock device for at least one year.

A person is guilty of being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug if the person has actual physical control of a vehicle within Washington and the person either:

  • Has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 (grams per two hundred ten liters of breath) or higher within two hours of being in actual physical control of a vehicle;
  • Has a blood THC concentration of 5.00 (nanograms per milliliter of blood) or higher within two hours of being in actual physical control of a vehicle; or
  • Is under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor or any drug (or both).

Physical Control Vs. DUI In Washington

Under Washington law, Physical Control charges are treated the exact same as a DUI when it comes to punishment.  It may seem strange that Washington treats it the exact same to be behind the wheel of a stationary vehicle while impaired as driving one down the road.  But despite your common sense confusion, you can face the same amount of jail, license suspension, probation, and court-ordered treatment regardless of whether the vehicle was actually in motion.

What Does Physical Control Mean?

Even worse is that the term “actual physical control” as used in the statute isn’t even defined under the law.  However, case law has found it to be a crime to be behind the wheel of a vehicle with the engine running.  There are other potential situations that might be construed to be “actual physical control” that haven’t yet happened, but sitting in the driver’s seat with the engine running is the classic example.

Defenses To Physical Control

Unlike DUI, a Physical Control charge has one shining defense that is not available for a DUI charge.  It is a defense to a Physical Control charge if you are “safely off of the roadway”.  To avail yourself to this defense, you must have safely moved the vehicle off of the roadway prior to being pursued by a law enforcement officer.  One complicating factor for this defense is that raising this defense may require you to prove that you moved the vehicle off of the road, which may require testimony that you drove the vehicle.  This would then implicate you in a DUI charge.  This can seem rather tricky.  If it does, this is by design.  Physical Control doesn’t seek to reward DUI drivers who drive then think better of it.  Rather, it seeks only to not punish those who didn’t drive while impaired.  Nevertheless, being behind the wheel of a stationary vehicle can sometimes result in beating the charges so long as you are not parked in the road.

In such a case, it is vital that you don’t admit to driving, so raising your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent when questioned by the police is always a good idea.  Police may try to charge you for sleeping in the driver’s seat, especially if you have the vehicle running.  And while it is never a good idea to get behind the wheel of a car while impaired, it is really important to not have the engine running, because this again is the classic case of Physical Control.

Call VanWa Legal Today For A Free DUI OR Physical Control Case Evaluation

If you have been charged with Physical Control of a Vehicle While Under the Influence, it pays to consult with an experienced DUI attorney who can help you develop a defense, negotiate on your behalf and possibly fight the charge at trial.  The stakes are high, so it pays to have experience and expertise on your side.  At Priest Criminal Defense, we have handled countless DUI and Physical Control cases, so we know how to evaluate your case and help you get the best possible outcome.  We offer a free no-obligations case evaluation on every case, so call us today to schedule your consultation.  When your liberty and right to drive are on the line, there really is no other smart choice then to call VanWa Legal today.

If you have been charged with a BUI or DUI in Clark County or Vancouver WA, time is of the essence!

Call our office to speak with Attorney Roger Priest immediately.

(360) 281-7314

BUI & DUI Attorney Services

Roger Priest & staff will help you assess your options when dealing with a DUI charge. We cover the following areas of DUI law in Vancouver:

  • Why you get stopped on a DUI case is often the most important question.  Police often make mistakes when stopping a vehicle, which can lead to the case being dismissed on constitutional grounds.  Only an experienced DUI lawyer can help decide whether the police messed up on your case
  • How the field sobriety tests are conducted are crucial in determining whether they can be used against you in court.  Hiring a DUI defense attorney can lead to suppression of evidence that might otherwise sink your case.
  • DUI Arrest – At the point that an officer makes an arrest for DUI, there must be probable cause for the crime or any later evidence is inadmissible, including a breath or blood test.  It is therefore an important part of an investigation and may be good grounds to find a strong DUI defense.
  • DUI cases are rarely provable without either a scientific test of your breath or blood (or your refusing to provide one).  There are two types of blood tests:  a voluntary blood test or one subject to a search warrant.  The science behind breath and blood testing is complicated, so a strong scientific understanding of the process, science, and laws of such tests is vital.
  • Your first court appearance for DUI is an important part of your DUI case, because it an set the tone for the entire case.  This is where the judge will decide whether you must pay bail, face supervised release monitoring by probation, face conditions of release, and more.  Also, this is where you enter a formal plea to the charge.
  • If a DUI breath or blood test shows your BAC was over 0.08% or you refuse a breath test, the Department of Licensing will try to suspend your driver’s license.  This administrative procedures is separate from your criminal case, but it can still be vitally important in the defense of your case.
  • Following arraignment, this is where the real work begins.  This is where the lawyer demands all fo the prosecutor’s evidence, conducts witness interviews, gathers independent witnesses and experts, strategize with the client, and prepare the case for possible trial.
  • Throughout a DUI case, the parties can make offers and counteroffers.  Often, strong negotiation is a product of having a good working relationship with the prosecutor and doing good discovery work.  The best deals are available for DUI attorneys who have the respect of the prosecution and best prepare the case for trial.
  • Often, DUIs are won or lost in the pretrial motions stage.  This is where knowing the law makes all the difference.  Sometimes, flaws in the police procedures can lead to suppression of evidence or dismissal of the case.  This can make a seemingly bad DUI case is possible winner.  Not only can this help negotiation but it could mean an acquittal at trial.
  • This is where litigators make their name.  A strong trial attorney can make a bad case better and a good case great.  Although having a good trial attorney doesn’t insure you’ll win, the better the litigator the better your chances.
  • Sometimes cases are lost at trial, but there are good reasons to continue fighting.  Trial courts often make mistakes that can be reversed by a higher court.  Not only will this give you the fair trial you deserve, but it can give you a second chance at trial if you win your appeal.

VanWa Legal Is Here To Help

Based in downtown Vancouver WA, we handle DUI charges throughout Clark County, Washington and the surrounding counties.  Call for a consultation if you are facing a DUI charge in any of the following counties or municipalities:

  • Vancouver, Washington
  • Clark County, Washington
  • Battle Ground, Washington
  • Camas, Washington
  • Washougal, Washington
  • Ridgefield, Washington
  • Woodland, Washington
  • Cowlitz County, Washington
  • Skamania County, Washington
  • Stevenson, Washington
  • Lewis County, Washington
  • Klickitat County, Washington
  • Wahkiakum County, Washington

Flat Fee Payment Plans

We offer affordable flat fee pricing on DUI charges and allow for payment plans in many cases.  A DUI lawyer is available for a free consultation seven days a week, so it is easy to enlist the help of an experienced attorney to assist you in your case.  There are never any hidden costs in our fees, so what we quote you is what you pay, regardless of how many court hearings or work is involved to get you the best result in your case.