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Actual Physical Control DUI

Driving under the influence cases often are complex and can be overwhelming. However, when a person is arrested for an actual physical control DUI, the situation can be more confusing. Actual physical control arrests can occur when a person is intoxicated and has control of his or her vehicle.

This means a person does not have to be driving to be arrested for a DUI. This can create complications in the case, and often times an attorney can argue to have your charges reduced or dropped. Building a strong defense could make a difference in your DUI case.

St. Petersburg Actual Physical Control DUI Attorney

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence and believe your case involves issues around actual physical control of the vehicle, contact a St. Petersburg actual physical control DUI defense lawyer at Morris Law Firm, P.A..

The legal team at Morris Law Firm, P.A. has years of experience handling complicated DUI cases. Attorney Melinda Morris served on the DUI Manslaughter / Vehicular Homicide squad as a state attorney and was responsible for prosecuting very serious cases from investigation through trial. She understands how the prosecution works and knows what it takes to get a favorable outcome in each case.

Morris Law Firm, P.A. represents clients in the Tampa Bay Area, including those in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Pinellas County, Tampa, Hillsborough County and other surrounding counties. Call (727) 388-4736 to schedule a free consultation and discuss your unique situation.


Information About Actual Physical Control


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What is Actual Physical Control in DUI cases?

Actual physical control in DUI cases means a person was physically in or on the vehicle and had the capability to operate the vehicle, regardless of whether he or she is actually operating the vehicle at the time or if the vehicle even was turned on.

For instance, if a person who had been drinking sits in the front seat of his or her vehicle with the keys in hand, he or she still could be considered in actual physical control of the vehicle. It could be argued he or she planned to drive or was capable of starting the vehicle.

In some cases, even if the person was sleeping in the back seat of the vehicle with the keys, he or she still could be considered in actual physical control of the vehicle. Additionally, law enforcement and prosecutors still could argue a person was in control of the vehicle even if the keys were located outside of it.

To be convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugged driving, three elements must be proven by the prosecutor:

  • You are either driving or in actual physical control of the vehicle
  • You are under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or other substance
  • Your normal faculties are impaired or your blood alcohol content is .08 or higher

If the person was not physically driving the vehicle, actual physical control is an extremely important element necessary for a DUI conviction. The prosecutor must prove the driver was in actual physical Control of the vehicle to successfully prove DUI.


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Elements of Actual Physical Control DUI

Three factors are typically relied on when a police officer or prosecutor is attempting to establish actual physical control of a vehicle. These factors include:

  • Either actual or constructive possession of the key to the vehicle or proof the vehicle can operate without a key. This means that so long as the key is found either in the ignition, on the driver’s person or in close enough proximity to the driver that the driver can easily access it, this element of actual physical control is satisfied.
  • Driver is in the driver’s seat
  • Evidence that the vehicle was operable

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Facts and Myths About Actual Physical Control DUI

Drivers not aware of the elements of actual physical control incorrectly assume that in order to be arrested for DUI they must be actually driving the vehicle. However, in Florida, you can be arrested for simply being in actual physical control of your vehicle while under the influence.

This means if you are sitting in your parked car attempting to sleep off the effects of a night of drinking, even if the car is turned off and in park, you still can be arrested for DUI. Even placing the keys outside the car does not save you from being in actual physical control of the vehicle and charged with DUI. Thus, the often repeated adage that you can put the keys on the roof of the car and sleep it off in the passenger’s seat will not work.

Further, although it is widely thought the vehicle must be operable to establish actual physical control, there have been cases where the vehicle was not operable at the time of the law enforcement investigation and the person has still been arrested for DUI.

For example, if the vehicle has a flat tire or the battery has died, the vehicle is technically inoperable at the time of the investigation, yet courts have held the driver can still be found in actual physical control based on circumstantial evidence that the vehicle somehow got to that location when it was operable.

However, if a vehicle was missing all four tires or suffered some mechanical defect that rendered it completely immobile rather than temporarily immovable, that distinction is important and would likely constitute an inoperable vehicle. That likely would not lead to actual physical control being met as an element for a DUI conviction.


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Potential Defenses

Because actual physical control DUI cases involve numerous questions of fact, which are frequently open to interpretation, they are often successful in getting acquitted by a jury. Thus, hiring an experienced DUI lawyer is of the utmost importance and can make all the difference in your DUI case.

Some possible defenses that could have your charges reduced or dropped include:

  • Investigative mistakes by law enforcement
  • Insufficient evidence
  • Accident report privilege
  • Mistaken identity

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Finding A Pinellas County Actual Physical Control Lawyer

If you have been arrested for DUI and believe that your case involves issues of actual physical control, contact a St. Petersburg DUI attorney at Morris Law Firm, P.A. to discuss possible defenses that may exist in your case. Call (727) 388-4736 to discuss your case directly with an attorney or fill out our online form to be contacted for a free initial consultation.

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