Under Ohio Law, physical control is defined as: “… being in the driver’s position of the front seat of a vehicle or in the driver’s position of a streetcar or trackless trolley and having possession of the vehicle’s, streetcar’s, or trackless trolley’s ignition key or other ignition device.”
So, if you are passed out behind the steering wheel in the driver’s seat with the keys nearby, you are risking being arrested for physical control. If you’re going to sleep it off, it is best to do so in the back seat. A classic example is someone who knows they’re impaired and is not going to drive drunk gets in their car by the bar, and turns on the heater or air conditioner to be comfortable. Then, when all comfy, they fall asleep, or pass out, often with the vehicle still running. The running vehicle then draws the attention of law enforcement. That being said, it is still much better to suffer a physical control charge versus an actual operating a vehicle while impaired (OVI) charge.
Even though a physical control conviction and an OVI conviction are similar in that they are both alcohol-related first-degree misdemeanors, there are no minimum penalties for a physical control conviction. The court is generally more favorable towards physical control convictions because of the fact that the offender did not operate his or her vehicle and put other people at risk. The court shows its favor by giving lighter penalties. The law itself is constructed to be more favorable towards those who do not drive after drinking.
In addition, prior physical control convictions do not trigger enhanced penalties. But prior OVI convictions do become additive and mean that for each OVI you’re convicted of, penalties become more and more onerous.
Here’s another wrinkle in the physical control charges that can increase them to OVI. If prosecutors are able to prove that you moved the vehicle while you were under the influence, even though when they found you, you were passed out and the vehicle was not in motion and you weren’t behind the wheel, you may still be subject to an OVI charge.
If you’ve been charged with an alcohol-related offense, don’t allow the deck to continue to be stacked against you. You need the representation of a skilled attorney who can help you navigate the treacherous legal landscape. The Maher Law Firm can help make sure that your rights are protected. Founding attorney, Colin Maher, is a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) certified practitioner for field sobriety testing, which is the same training police officers take. This training helps him evaluate and challenge the evidence collection involved in the physical control field sobriety test process. Call The Maher Law Firm today for a free consultation at 614-205-2208 or contact us online.