Court Discusses the “Operation” Element of an Arizona DUI Offense in Recent Opinion

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.

At trial, the defendant conceded that he was intoxicated, but argued that there was insufficient evidence for the judge to find that he was in “actual physical control” of the car. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion for acquittal, and the defendant was convicted.

On appeal, the defendant again argued that there was insufficient evidence establishing he was in physical control of the car. The court began its analysis by noting that a defendant is in actual physical control of a vehicle when “under the totality of the facts, the person posed a threat to the public by the exercise of present or imminent control” over a vehicle while impaired.” The court went on to explain that relevant facts include whether the engine is running, the driver’s position inside the car, and the location of the car.

Here, the court found that the evidence was sufficient to sustain the defendant’s conviction. The court noted that the defendant was found sleeping in a car that was partially obstructing the road with the keys in the ignition. The court also pointed out that the hood of the vehicle was warm and that the car was in drive.

Have You Been Arrested for an Arizona DUI Offense

If you have recently been arrested and charged with an Arizona DUI offense, contact Attorney James E. Novak for immediate assistance. Attorney Novak is a well-respected and knowledgeable Arizona criminal defense attorney with extensive experience handling all types of Arizona DUI offenses. To learn more about how Attorney Novak can help you defend against the allegations you are facing, call 480-413-1499 today.

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