Can I Be Charged with a DUI Even If I Wasn’t Driving?
It seems like an impossible scenario: you have a few too many drinks at the bar, so you decide to sleep it off in the front seat of your car. You figure you’ll sober up, turn the key, and hit the road—only to find yourself arrested and charged with a crime.
Can you be arrested and charged for “drunk driving” even if you weren’t actually driving? Sure, it happened in Everybody Loves Raymond (remember when Debra said she had an “intent to nap?”), but could this really happen in real life?
Today, we’re going to answer that exact question. We’ll explain Ohio OVI laws, the concept of “physical control,” and why you might want to reconsider that car nap.
OVI Laws in Ohio
Ohio OVI law states, “No person shall operate any vehicle, streetcar, or trackless trolley within this state, if, at the time of the operation … The person is under the influence of alcohol, a drug of abuse, or a combination of them.”
If you are operating a motor vehicle while exceeding the above limits set by the law, you may face arrest and an OVI charge: operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
A first-time OVI is a first degree misdemeanor, and conviction can come with a list of serious penalties:
- Minimum $375 and maximum $1,075 fine
- $475 driver’s license reinstatement fee
- Costs associated with a Driver Intervention Program, if you are required to attend
- Three-day jail sentence or mandatory three-day Driver Intervention Program, if your BAC was between .08 and .17
- Six-day jail sentence or three-day jail sentence and three-day Driver Intervention Program, if your BAC was .17 or higher
- Class Five license suspension ranging from 180 days to three years (with potential limited driving privileges), if your BAC was between .08 and .17
- Potential mandatory installation of yellow plates or an ignition interlock device in your car, if your BAC was .17 or higher
Still, if you’re not operating a vehicle—driving it—there’s no problem, right? Doesn’t that mean you’re safe?
Well, not exactly.
To understand why, let’s talk about physical control.
In addition to its OVI laws, Ohio also has a “physical control” law.
This law states, “No person shall be in physical control of a vehicle, streetcar, or trackless trolley if, at the time of the physical control … The person is under the influence of alcohol, a drug of abuse, or a combination of them.”
Physical control is also defined: “Physical control” means 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.”
Violation of this physical control law is a first degree misdemeanor. The good news is that the penalties of a physical control conviction are not quite as serious as an OVI conviction. The conviction does not come with points on your license. It also doesn’t count against you if you face future charges. However, the penalties are still not something you want to experience! You may face significant fines, license suspension, and even jail time.
Because of Ohio’s physical control law, if you are under the influence, sitting in the front seat of your car, and in possession of your keys, you could be in trouble with the law. As a result, you might want to think twice before going anywhere near your car after consuming alcohol.
OVI & Physical Control Defense
Ohio is clearly tough on suspected drunk drivers, and it’s unfortunate that people often trying to do the right thing—sleeping off a few too many in their car—are caught in the crosshairs.
If you are facing OVI or physical control charges, know that you have options. It’s often a good idea to speak to a qualified and experienced OVI lawyer in Cincinnati. A good lawyer will look over your case, explain your options, and work to help you minimize or avoid the penalties of conviction.
The OVI attorneys at Casper & Casper have years of experience helping people just like you. We have the skills, knowledge, and determination to work toward the best possible result in your case. Contact us today to talk about your options for fighting your charges.