The “Actual Physical Control” Element of an Arizona DUI Case

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.

In a pre-trial motion to dismiss, the defendant argued that the case should be dismissed under the “stationary shelter” rule. The stationary shelter rule prohibits a person’s prosecution for DUI when they are using the vehicle as a temporary stationary shelter. The rationale behind the rule is that, when someone is resting or sleeping in a vehicle that is not running, they are not in actual physical control of the vehicle. It also incentivizes intoxicated people to pull over when they know they are a danger. Here, the defendant claimed that the prosecution was speculating that he was operating the vehicle while he was in an intoxicated state.

The court rejected the defendant’s argument, affirming his conviction. The court explained that the prosecution was not speculating about the defendant’s condition because 1.) there was video surveillance showing the truck pulling into the store’s parking lot, and 2.) the defendant admitted to having driven the car when asked by police officers. Thus, while the stationary shelter rule could apply in similar cases, the court held that it did not apply in this case.

Have You Been Arrested for an Arizona Drunk Driving Offense?

If you have recently been charged with an Arizona DUI crime, reach out to Attorney James E. Novak for immediate assistance. Attorney Novak has decades of experience representing clients charged with drunk driving offenses, and knows what it takes to mount a successful defense in these challenging cases. He understands that having a criminal case hanging over your head is incredibly stressful, and makes he makes himself available to his clients to answer any questions when they come up. To learn more, call 480-413-1499 to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Novak. Or, you can also reach our office through our online form.

Contact Information