What is Physical Control of a Vehicle Under the Influence?
You might be here because you were charged with a DUI even though you weren't driving. How can the government do this? I see this charge a lot and have defended tons of these, many all the way through trial with resulting Not Guilty Verdicts. There is a specific statute that allows for the charging of a DUI case wherein there is no proof the officer actually saw you driving. It is called Physical Control of a Vehicle Under the Influence (RCW 46.61.504). The applicable statute says this:
- 1) A person is guilty of being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug if the person has actual physical control of a vehicle within this state:
- (a) And the person has, within two hours after being in actual physical control of the vehicle, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher as shown by analysis of the person's breath or blood made under RCW 46.61.506; or
- (b) The person has, within two hours after being in actual physical control of a vehicle, a THC concentration of 5.00 or higher as shown by analysis of the person's blood made under RCW 46.61.506; or
- (c) While the person is under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor or any drug; or
- (d) While the person is under the combined influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor and any drug.
What is Physical Control then? There is no jury instruction on what actual physical control is, the only instruction given from the court instructs the jury as to the following:
A person commits the crime of being in actual physical control when he or she has actual physical control of a motor vehicle while he or she is under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor or while he or she has sufficient alcohol in her body to have an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher within two hours after being in actual physical control shown by an accurate and reliable test of the person's breath. WPIC 92.01
So where does this leave either side? Well the government is going to somehow have to convince the jury you had control over the vehicle and the defense will have to convince the jury you did not. Either way, it is always and interesting argument.
Safely Off the Roadway - An Affirmative Defense
If you have been charged with Physical Control of a Motor Vehicle While Under the Influence of Alcohol or any Drug (RCW 46.61.504) there is one well-known defense to the charge. It is an affirmative defense known as "safely off the roadway."
As a seasoned Seattle DUI Lawyer, I have utilized this defense numerous times for persons charged with a Washington State DUI. What the statute says about the defense is this:
"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."
RCW 46.61.504 (2).
Now the law enforcement office undoubtedly knows about the defense to the charge so I have seen reports written which say something like "I observed the vehicle pulled to the shoulder of the road but the exterior side mirror was protruding into the lane of travel and cause a significant risk to passing motorists." What does that mean, even though you pulled your car over and stopped driving as the legislature intended, if you had been drinking the cops want to bust you, they don't care there is an applicable defense. I've literally had a prosecutor tell a jury (after my client was found not guilty) that "I don't believe in safely off the roadway." Yes this is a from a person who took an oath to seek justice under the law.
Seattle DUI Lawyer, Nate Webb knows how to apply this defense effectively. I have had numerous cases dismissed when applying this defense and not guilty verdicts when presented to a jury.
My most recent Not Guilty result applying the Safely Off the Roadway Defense (January 2020), here is what my client had to say:
"I was not familiar with attorneys in Washington State, so whomever may be reading this review I wanted to make sure I would select an Attorney who was not only competent and well versed in law but also someone with whom I felt I could trust to represent me to the best of his abilities.
Fortunately after reading several reviews and a conversation with several different law firms, I selected Mr. Nathan Webb, Webb Law Firm.
It was a sound decision as not only was I found NOT GUILTY for DUI but Mr. Webb also beat the charges by the DOL!"
DUI client - B.D.
Another Physical Control Not Guilty result (2017) after a jury trial was by applying this defense and this is what my client had to say afterward:
"Nate changed my life and I will be forever grateful for what he did for me. If you are looking for a lawyer, a super lawyer, I think it's obvious who you want on your side. Nathan Webb! Thank you Nate!"
DUI client - J.S.
If you weren't driving and were still arrested for DUI (Physical Control), call today to discuss your case (425) 522-4200.