What is an Actual Physical Control DUI in Arizona?

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Rosenstein Law Group PLLC

Scottsdale, AZ

Practice Areas

Criminal Defense, DUI and DWI

Looking at Actual Physical Control DUI's Charges in Arizona

Actual physical control is a part of Arizona DUI law that a lot of people have a hard time understanding. Much of this comes from the fact that there is no black and white way to determine if someone was in actual physical control of a vehicle. Many people are unaware that you can get a DUI in Arizona even if you are not driving your vehicle. Believe it or not, Arizona law allows for DUI charges if you are under the influence and driving or in “actual physical control” of a vehicle. Police officers are quick to arrest someone for DUI when they appear to be intoxicated and are sitting in a running car; people are even arrested for DUI for sitting in their car with the ignition turned off.

What Does Actual Physical Control Mean?

Whether someone is in actual physical control requires looking at the totality of the circumstances to determine whether a person’s current or imminent control of a vehicle presented a real danger to himself or others at the time alleged. Some of the factors that a court or jury should consider when determining whether a person was in actual physical control include:

  • Whether the vehicle was running
  • Whether the ignition was on
  • Where the ignition key was located
  • Where and in what position the driver was found in the vehicle
  • Whether the person was awake or asleep
  • Whether the vehicle’s headlights were on
  • Where the vehicle was stopped
  • Whether the driver had voluntarily pulled off the road
  • The time of day
  • Weather conditions
  • Whether the vehicle’s heater or air conditioner was on
  • Whether the windows were up or down
  • Any explanation of the circumstances shown by the evidence

Defending Against Arizona Actual Physical Control DUI Charges

This list of factors is not all-inclusive, as you can see by the final bullet point above. A court or jury can look to any other evidence that may show that a person was not in actual physical control of a vehicle. It may be a defense to your DUI charge if you were using your vehicle as a stationary shelter. This “Shelter Rule” is in place so that people are not punished for having the awareness to “sleep off” their intoxication rather than trying to make it home before getting caught by police. The unfortunate truth is that we see these people getting arrested by police and charged by prosecutors quite frequently.

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