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Can You be Charged with a DUI if You Weren’t Driving?

June 24, 2019

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

It happens sometimes. You’ve had too much to drink without realizing it, until you get behind the wheel of your car. Knowing the severe consequences of being charged with a DUI, and not wanting to place the lives of others at risk, you think you’re doing the right thing by remaining in your vehicle but not driving. Maybe you just want to wait until the effects of the alcohol wear off, and maybe you have a nap to help. A short time later though, you’re shocked to find you’re being charged with a DUI.

Why is this happening? How can a person be charged with a DUI when they weren’t even driving at the time? It all depends on whether you had actual physical control of the vehicle.

What is Actual Physical Control?

Unfortunately, the term actual physical control has not been defined by the Pennsylvania courts. However, while there is no clear legal statute defining what this term means, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has issued judgements defining what is actual physical control.

Actual physical control does not mean you were simply sitting behind the wheel of your car at the time. The courts have stated that is not enough to prove actual physical control. Instead, the courts will look at the circumstances surrounding the alleged crime. While doing so, they will try to determine if you drove while drunk shortly before being found in your vehicle.

Examples of Actual Physical Control

The Supreme Court has ruled that there are certain instances in which someone is in actual physical control of their vehicle. These include instances in which:

  • A driver is found sleeping in the driver’s seat on the shoulder of the road with the engine and headlights running.
  • A driver is found in an alleyway with the motor of the vehicle running.
  • A driver is found sleeping in the driver’s seat of the car without the engine running, but the vehicle is in the middle of the road.
  • A driver is revving their engine while parked in front of a bar.
  • A driver is behind the wheel of a car that is parked diagonally with the parking lights on and the keys in the ignition, even if the vehicle is not turned on.
  • A driver’s car is found parked down an embankment near a road.
  • The vehicle is not running, and is parked out of the roadway, but the engine is warm.

In these instances the prosecution, and the courts, will likely determine you were driving the vehicle shortly before being apprehended by the police. When they make this decision, there’s a very good chance you will face DUI charges.

Need Help with a DUI? Call the Pennsylvania DUI Attorneys that can Help

If you’ve been charged with a DUI, regardless of whether you were actually driving or not, you’re facing very serious charges. A charge and a conviction are very different, and it doesn’t have to go further than that. At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, we are the Philadelphia and Allentown DUI attorneys that can help. We will create a solid defense for you so you don’t pay for being in the wrong place at the wrong time for the rest of your life. You don’t have to live with a criminal record. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 to learn how we can help.



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