Articles Posted in Actual Physical Control

Arizona law recognizes driving under the influence (DUI) as a violent crime, and violations of the law may result in hefty penalties and incarceration. For example, recently, a court issued an opinion stemming from an Arizona defendant’s appeal of his DUI conviction. The case arose after police responded to a welfare check of the defendant sitting in a vehicle outside of a restaurant. According to police, a database search revealed that the man had a suspended license and was required to have an ignition interlock device in his vehicle. Police testified that the defendant appeared intoxicated, refused a field sobriety test, and did not have an interlock device in his vehicle. The defendant told police that a friend drove him between bars, but he could not provide the friend’s contact information. A subsequent blood test determined that the defendant’s blood-alcohol level was over the legal limit.

Prosecutors charged the defendant with several DUI offenses, and in the alternative, the State alleged actual physical control of a vehicle under the influence. The jury convicted the defendant of all counts. Amongst several issues, the defendant argued that he should not have been convicted of actual physical control because the indictment did not include those charges.

Under Arizona law, Statute 28-1381(A)(1), it is illegal to drive or have actual physical control while under the influence or impaired. Specifically, a person may not maintain control or drive a vehicle if they are under the influence of liquor, any drug, any vapor releasing substance containing a toxic substance, or any combination of these substances. Courts will determine whether a party had “physical control” by examining a host of factors. Some relevant factors include:

Everyone knows that drunk driving is against the law. However, the elements of a DUI offense are not always straightforward. One of the most misunderstood elements of an Arizona drunk driving offense is the requirement that the prosecution proves a defendant was in “actual physical control” of the vehicle. A recent state appellate decision discusses what the prosecution must prove to meet its burden under the “actual physical control” element of a DUI offense.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, police officers received a call for people sleeping in a car. Police officers arrived on the scene, and noticed that the vehicle had been in an accident. Officers woke the passenger up without issue, but the defendant was “in and out of it,” and exhibited signs of intoxication, including slurred speech and confusion.

Police officers administered field sobriety tests, the results of which led them to believe the defendant was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Subsequently, the police arrested the defendant, who then told them that he had driven to the store to buy some food, and fell asleep after pulling over. Police ordered chemical testing of the defendant’s blood, which indicated he was under the influence of methamphetamine and amphetamine.

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One of the elements that the prosecution must prove in an Arizona DUI charge is that the driver was in actual physical control of a vehicle. If the prosecution cannot establish this fact, then the defendant must be found not guilty. However, courts define “actual physical control” quite broadly, as illustrated in a recent appellate decision.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant’s parents called police after they noticed that their new truck was missing. They told the police that their son, the defendant, had been drunk earlier in the day, and that they believed he stole their truck and drove it while under the influence. Because the defendant had a prior DUI, he was required to have an ignition interlock installed on any vehicle he drove.

Not long after speaking with the defendant’s parents, police officers located the truck with the defendant asleep inside. The truck’s lights were on, but the engine was off, and the keys were not in the ignition. Police woke the defendant up, who told them that the keys were “where they were supposed to be.” However, the defendant did not elaborate, and the officers never found the keys.

Before someone can be found guilty of a crime, the prosecution must prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. When it comes to Arizona DUI charges, the prosecution must show not only that the driver was intoxicated, but also that they were in “actual physical control” of the vehicle. This is commonly referred to as the “operation” element. Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona DUI case discussing the operation element, and what the prosecution must prove to sustain a conviction.

According to the court’s opinion, a police officer was on routine duty when he noticed a vehicle pulled over to the side of Interstate 10, with its flashers on and with the rear of the vehicle protruding into the roadway. As the officer approached the car, he could see that the driver was asleep and that there was a child unbuckled in the back seat. The officer opened the door and found an open can of beer, and the remains of a twelve-pack. The car was off, but the key was in the ignition, the car was in drive, and the hood was warm.

When the officer asked the defendant to get out of the car, he noticed that the defendant was unsteady and had bloodshot, watery eyes. The defendant told the officer he was not driving the car and that he “just pulled over.” A chemical test revealed that the defendant was intoxicated, and he was then arrested and charged with drunk driving.

Arizona police and lawmakers take the issue of driving under the influence (DUI) very seriously. Indeed, according to a recent news source, Arizona Police claim that there were nearly 27,000 Arizona DUI arrests in 2018. That figure has remained relatively constant over the past several years, ever since police stepped up enforcement of DUIs, especially over the holidays.

In Arizona, a DUI conviction carries serious consequences including the punishments doled out by the state, but also in terms of the collateral consequences that come along with a conviction. Thus, it is important to clear up the common misconception that an Arizona DUI case cannot be fought. In fact, there are several ways that an experienced Arizona DUI defense attorney can help a client beat their DUI case.

Motions to Suppress

If evidence that the state plans to use against a defendant was obtained in an unlawful manner, the defendant can file a motion to suppress that evidence. If the motion is granted, then the prosecution will be precluded from using the evidence. In many Arizona DUI cases, this leaves the prosecution with little evidence that a motorist was under the influence and may result in the withdrawal of a case.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona DUI case requiring the court to determine if the evidence presented by the prosecution was sufficient to convict the defendant. Specifically, the defendant challenged the finding that she was operating the vehicle. Ultimately, the court upheld the defendant’s conviction, finding that the fact that the defendant was unconscious behind the wheel was sufficient to prove she was operating the vehicle.

The Facts

The defendant was found unconscious behind the wheel of her vehicle by a firefighter who was conducting a wellness check. The defendant’s car was parked across several parking spaces. The firefighter knocked on the window until the defendant awoke, at which point he reached in and turned off the vehicle.

As the fireman was talking with the defendant, a police officer arrived. The police officer asked the defendant for her identification, and she handed him her debit card. The defendant eventually provided the officer with her identification. The officer claimed he noticed signs of intoxication, and asked the defendant to perform several field sobriety tests. In the officer’s assessment, the defendant failed the tests and she was arrested for DUI.

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In Arizona, lawmakers take driving under the influence very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that the law as it is written allows for a defendant to be found guilty of driving under the influence in some situations when the car is parked in a legal parking spot. It can even be illegal for an intoxicated person to sit in a car that had been turned off.

The reason that these situations are covered under Arizona’s DUI statute is because the statute makes it illegal for “a person to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle” while intoxicated. Of course, not every case where an intoxicated motorist is found inside a vehicle will result in a DUI charge. For example, if someone was sleeping in the back seat of the vehicle while parked with the keys out of the ignition and a cold engine, there would be a good argument that they were not, and did not intend to be, in “actual physical control” of the vehicle.

Cases in which a defendant is arrested and charged with DUI while parked or while the car was off depend heavily on every small fact. An experienced Arizona criminal defense attorney can help anyone charged with an Arizona DUI charge understand what they are facing and how they may be able to defend against the charges.

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DUI laws can be complicated. In the state of Arizona and the city of Phoenix, there are plenty of considerations when it comes to drunk driving charges and arrest. What's more, actual physical control (APC) debates complicate DUI charges. These APC disputes could lead to people getting charged with drunk driving when when a vehicle is stationary.

Let's explore the issues of actual physical control right now, and offer some insight into these kinds of legal disputes.

Liberal Interpretations of "Drunk Driving"

Drunk driving charges can change your life and potentially even your livelihood. That's why it's important to speak with a Phoenix drunk driving defense attorney about your case. Legal help following a DUI arrest can help you keep your life on the right track without detours.

Yet DUI cases can become complicated, particularly when laws regarding actual physical control (APC) can lead to drunk driving charges while people are in stationary vehicles. Let's explore this topic with regard to sleeping while in your car.

Sleeping It Off May Not Be a Way to Avoid DUI

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