Washington State DUI Law: Physical Control Charges.

Washington State DUI’s are Serious Criminal Charges that should almost always be aggressively fought and defended against . . . This Includes Physical Control Charges.

Nearly identical to a DUI (aka DWI) charge is a Physical Control Charge, as defined in RCW 46.61.504. Physical Control, which is defined as: “being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug,” has one occasionally available defense to it that DUI charges don’t have — though both DUI/DWI and Physical Control can be based upon alcohol, marijuana or other legal or illegal drug consumption — if it appreciably affects your driving. This is the safely off the roadway” defense, contained in RCW 46.61.504(2). It provides that: “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.” Physical control cases often involve the driver being in or near their vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol and/or drugs and having the keys to the vehicle in their possession. Many involve a driver who pulled to the side of the road (or, ideally for the driver, pulled safely off the roadway – always a question of fact), to pass out or ‘sleep it off’ because they were too drunk and/or too high to drive. Many occur in parking lots of businesses or of shopping malls, sometimes at parties, too. It is not drunk driving, as the person isn’t actually driving at all, but these cases are perceived to present the same criminal public safety risk as one actually driving drunk as all it takes, if you are drunk or high in vehicle with the keys is to start it up and drive. Like most DUI’s, Physical Control is a gross misdemeanor, with a maximum punishment of 364 days in jail, $5,000 fine, etc.

A physical control charge is very similar to a DUI charge, with basically identical stages of prosecution, penalties for convictions, and the same things said in my prior DUI Basic Overview blog about DUI’s –regarding high vs. low blows – if alcohol is the drug involved, and about prior convictions within 7 years back from the arrest date for DUI, Physical Control or a previous deferred Prosecution, increased penalties for priors, higher blows, including fines, IID requirements, increased insurance rates, etc., apply with equal force to Physical Control charges.

I can be reached 24/7 at 425-367-1122 to discuss any of these issues as they may apply to your case. Call me or come in and let’s go over it together.

Phillip L. Weinberg

Washington State DUI Defense Attorney