What Is Actual Physical Control Of A Motor Vehicle?

Pennsylvania's DUI statute makes it unlawful for a person to "drive, operate or be in actual physical control" of the movement of a motor vehicle while intoxicated by any of various substances such as alcohol, illegal drugs and even prescription drugs.

Whether a person "drives" or "operates" a motor vehicle is usually very simple. What is not simple, however, is what is necessary to prove a person was in "actual physical control" of a vehicle. Is a person sleeping it off in a car with an engine running in actual physical control of a vehicle for DUI purposes?

Pennsylvania's courts usually require a combination of these factors to determine whether a person is in actual physical control: (1) is the motor running? (2) what is the location of the vehicle; and (3) is there additional evidence showing that vehicle had been driven?

The courts usually require more than just some proof that an intoxicated individual started a parked car. In a majority of cases, the location of the vehicle is a key factor in a finding of actual control. See Commonwealth v. Bobotas , 588 A.2d 518, 521 (Pa. Super. 1991) (finding actual physical control when the defendant was found parked in an alley, where he had pulled over on the way home, with the motor running); Commonwealth v. Crum , 523 A.2d 799, 800 (Pa. Super.1987) (finding actual physical control when defendant was found sleeping in his parked car, along the side of the road, with the headlights on and the motor running).

But there is no actual physical control where a person is found asleep behind the wheel of a running car when the car had not been moved from the parking lot of the bar where the motorist became intoxicated.

Experience Matters In Building Your Defense

DUI cases in which a person is found in a parked car are cases that require good attorneys to sort out. While each case is different, lawyers know the rules and can provide advice in close cases involving actual physical control of a motor vehicle.

Contact Our Office

At Goldman Law Offices, we have more than 65 years of experience defending clients throughout Bucks County, Montgomery County and the surrounding area. For a private consultation with an experienced Doylestown DUI/DWI defense attorney, contact our office online, or call us at 215-348-2605.