What is a Physical Control DUI Charge and How Can You Fight It?

DUIs are taken extremely seriously in Washington State. But it’s not just a classic DUI that you have to worry about, there is also physical control DUIs that often carry equally severe punishment for drivers found behind the wheel, and even in parked vehicles.

physical control DUI attorney

There is zero tolerance shown towards people who have consumed alcohol and are caught driving over the legal limit. If you feel impaired, be safe and consider having a friend drive you home or catch a cab.

The consequences of receiving a DUI are very severe and often long-lasting, so this is one area that you won’t want to chance.

What Is a Physical Control DUI?

A physical control DUI is when a driver is found in actual physical control of a vehicle. This doesn’t mean that the driver was attempting to drive or even that the vehicle was started, simply being behind the wheel while intoxicated is grounds for receiving a physical control DUI charge in Washington State.

This is unfortunate for drivers who were not intending to drive until they sobered up and simply took a seat behind the wheel to wait it out, as they are still able to be charged with physical control of their vehicle.

Other examples of when a driver might be charged with a physical control DUI include scenarios:

  • A driver is seated in the driver’s seat at an intersection with the vehicle keys on the floor of the car
  • A driver is seated in the driver’s seat of a vehicle that is out of gas
  • A driver is seated in the driver’s seat of a parked car with the keys in the ignition.

All of these scenarios are punishable by a physical control DUI charge and can lead to serious legal repercussions for the driver even if it wasn’t their intention to drive.

What Does Actual Physical Control Mean?

Here we will refer to RCW 46.61.504 for clarity.

  1. 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 this state:
  • The person has, within two hours after being in actual physical control of the vehicle, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher as shown by analysis of the person’s breath or blood made under RCW 46.61.506; or
  • While the person is under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor or any drug; or
  • While the person is under the combined influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor and any drug.
  1. The fact that a person charged with a violation of this section is or has been entitled to use a drug under the laws of this state does not constitute a defense against any charge of violating this section. No person may be convicted under this section if, prior to being pursued by a law enforcement officer, the person has moved the vehicle safely off the roadway.

Punishment For Receiving A Physical Control DUI Charge

A physical control DUI charge in and of itself is considered a gross misdemeanor and is punishable by a minimum of 24 hours in jail and a ninety-day suspension of your driving privileges — and this is only if you haven’t had prior driving convictions and your breath tested below 0.15. The maximum penalty, in this case, is up to 365 days in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.

If your breathalyzer test showed alcohol content in your blood that exceeded 0.15 or you outright refused to take the breathalyzer test, you will spend no less than 48 hours in jail and will face 365 days of restricted driving privileges.

Even after the fine has been paid and the time served, you will be unable to get your driving privileges back unless you consent to have an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle, and maintain the device for a minimum of one year.

An ignition interlock device is installed in vehicles to ensure that you are not able to start your car without first blowing into a mouthpiece that tests your breath to ensure you have not consumed alcohol.

What To Do If You Have Been Charged With A Physical Control DUI?

Being charged with a physical control DUI often carries the same level of punishment as a regular DUI and have lasting legal and social repercussions. DUIs should never be handled lightly as they are extremely serious legal situations.

If you have received a physical control DUI charge it is very important that you work with a DUI attorney to ensure the best possible outcome for your case.

If you were simply sitting behind the wheel without any intention to drive until sober, your voice should be heard. By doing what you viewed as the responsible thing you should not still receive the same level of punishment as if you had been driving while intoxicated. Working with a DUI attorney will give you a voice in the courtroom and increase your chances of getting the physical control DUI lifted.

Contact A Reliable DUI Attorney Today

Matthew Leyba, of Leyba Defense, has spent his career working in the legal field and is considered one of Seattle’s top DUI attorneys. He has an extensive background working in criminal defense and a proven history of successful DUI cases. Our resources can help answer some questions you may have.

If you have been charged with a physical control DUI and you want to fight it, contact Matthew Leyba of Leyba Defense today to start building your case.