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Facing DUI charges when you were not driving

| Jun 10, 2020 | DUI |

While your buddies can drink all night, you prefer an earlier bedtime. After a night on the town, you may ask one of your friends for the keys to the car. You do not want to drive home, though. Instead, you simply want to relax in the passenger seat and listen to music until your pals are ready to go. This seemingly innocent fact pattern may cause you to face charges for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Georgia law prevents individuals from operating a motor vehicle if they have a blood alcohol concentration above the state’s 0.08% legal limit. Unfortunately, though, you do not have to be driving to face DUI charges. If you have actual physical control of a vehicle, prosecutors may charge you with drunk driving.

What is actual physical control?

As its name suggests, actual physical control means you have the ability to drive the vehicle. When determining whether someone had actual physical control, judges typically consider a few factors. Among others, these include the following:

  • Whether you own the vehicle
  • Whether the vehicle’s engine is running
  • Whether you have the car’s keys
  • Whether you made incriminating statements

How might you run afoul of the law?

Law enforcement officers in Georgia enjoy wide latitude to enforce the state’s drunk driving laws. Here are a few situations when an officer may suspect you have actual physical control of a vehicle:

  • You are pushing a car out of a public roadway
  • You are sleeping in a car with a running engine
  • You are listening to music inside a car
  • You are sitting in a car with the keys in your hand or pocket

While these examples may lead to a DUI arrest, it is not hard to imagine other situations when you may have actual physical control. Therefore, after consuming alcohol, you may want to avoid motor vehicles altogether. On the other hand, if prosecutors have charged you with a drunk driving offense based on a theory of actual physical control, it is critical to mount an aggressive defense. Proving you had no actual physical control of the vehicle may be the first step.