What Is “Physical Control of a Vehicle Under the Influence”?

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Physical Control Law in Ohio

Assume that John walks out of the bar after having a few drinks and decides that he’ll just sleep it off in his car.  He could have called for a cab or asked a responsible friend for a ride home, but he figures that he’s doing the responsible thing by not driving, and besides, his car has a pretty comfortable seat anyway.  Is he committing a crime?

Ohio, like many other states, has enacted a law called “Physical Control.”  Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.194 prohibits having “physical control” of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or a drug of abuse.

Physical control means being in the driver’s seat and having possession of the vehicle’s ignition key.  This offense is a misdemeanor of the first degree, and carries some of the same penalties as a drunk driving or OVI conviction.

Consider John’s situation.  An officer comes along and sees John, unconscious, in the driver’s seat of his car.  The officer decides to check on him, just to make sure that he’s alright.  John wakes up to the officer tapping on his window, he’s groggy and still in no condition to drive.

John tries to tell the officer that he was just sleeping it off and as far as he’s concerned, not doing anything wrong.  Of course, the officer disagrees, and after running John through the drill of the standardized field sobriety tests, arrests him for having physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.

There are many lessons we can take away from John’s situation, but one of the most obvious is, if you’re going to sleep it off get a safe ride home first or maybe just sleep in the backseat.

If you have been arrested for Physical Control and wish to get your questions answered by an experienced Columbus DUI Lawyer, call our offices at (614) 547-5757 for a free consultation.