In DUI cases in Largo and throughout the state of Florida, the element of driving can also be proven if the police find the driver in “actual physical control” of a vehicle. This means that the person does not necessarily have to be seen driving a car to be found guilty of a DUI. It is common for drunk people who are passed out in and around their cars or after accidents to be charged.
The Florida DUI Statute
The Florida DUI statute lays out the elements the state must prove for someone to be guilty of the crime. While it gives specifics about the legal limit for a person’s blood alcohol concentration while driving and outlines penalties such as fines and licenses suspensions, there is language about “driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle” at the beginning of the statute. At first glance this may just seem to be a catch all provision that covers any act of driving, but it actually extends the state’s authority to arrest people for DUI even if they are not found actually driving a car.
A problem with explaining the concept of actual physical control is that there is not concrete definition, and it is purposely left vague to allow prosecutors some room to argue that a person was likely driving at some point even if no witness actually saw them operating the car. This was probably initially done by the legislature to allow for arrests in situations where there was already an accident when police arrived and the cars involved were stopped.
Factors that can prove actual physical control
Although there is no easy definition or strict rules for how the state can prove control of a vehicle, there are some factors that guide how the concept of actual physical control may be used. The first is the location of the driver. If the driver is in the driver’s seat and looks like they were driving at some point, they are going to be in actual physical control of the car. This may be more difficult to prove if a person is in another part of the car such as the passenger seat or back seat. The location of the car keys can also be important. If the keys are in the ignition it would tend to suggest that driving occurred. However, there are some situations where the keys were in other parts of the car or the driver’s pockets and they were still considered to be in actual physical control. Where the vehicle is ultimately found is important as well. If a car is parked in a garage or parking lot, it would tend to suggest that it may have been there the whole time. However, incidents that involve cars stopped in the middle of the road would tend to indicate that an intoxicated person drove it there and did not realize what they were doing. Police may also check to see if a car’s engine and tires are still warm or running to prove that the car had recently been used.
At the conclusion of any DUI case, the state will have to make a factual determination as to whether someone was either driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle. It can take an experienced defense attorney to argue that the person was not in control of the vehicle, as this is designed to be a loose requirement that results in more convictions rather than a strict one.
Get help from a DUI lawyer in Largo Florida now
DUI cases are actually complex to defend because of the combination of traffic law, scientific evidence proving intoxication, and other observations about a person’s behavior and driving pattern. If you have been charged with a DUI in Largo or surrounding areas, contact Trevena, Pontrello & Associates.