WHAT IS “PHYSICAL CONTROL” IN COLUMBUS, OHIO?

The Ohio physical control statute states:

“[n]o person shall be in physical control of a vehicle * * * if at the time of the physical control, * * * [t]he person is under the influence of alcohol, a drug of abuse, or a combination of them.”

That means that in order to prove a physical control charge, the prosecutor must show that the driver:

  1. Was in physical control of the vehicle (i.e. was in the driver’s seat, had access to the keys)
  2. Was under the influence of alcohol and/or a “drug of abuse” (i.e. prescription drugs or controlled substance)

PENALTIES FOR PHYSICAL CONTROL IN OHIO

Penalties for physical control charge in Columbus and throughout Ohio include:

  • Fines: of up to $1000
  • Jail time: Up to 6 months
  • License suspension: Up to 1 year (driving privileges available)
  • Yellow plates: Optional at discretion of the judge
  • Ignition Interlock: Optional at discretion of the judge

POTENTIAL DEFENSES TO A COLUMBUS PHYSICAL CONTROL CHARGE

Because physical control is an alcohol or drug-related offense, the potential defenses are similar to an OVI case. Potential defenses include:

  • Improper traffic stop.  In order to approach a vehicle and initiate a traffic stop, the officer must have reasonable suspicion that you have committed a traffic, parking or other criminal charge.  If the stop is improper, the entire case could be thrown out. 
  • The driver did not have “physical control” over the vehicle.  The prosecutor must prove that (1) you were in the driver’s seat, and (2) that you had possession or access to the key or ignition device.
  •  The field sobriety tests were not properly administered.  The police are required to follow very specific instructions when administering field sobriety tests.  If they fail to do so, the tests can be thrown out of evidence.
  • The breath test result is invalid.  This defense usually includes arguments that the breathalyzer machine was faulty, not properly calibrated, influenced by mouth alcohol or medical issues, or otherwise administered incorrectly by the officer (i.e. the required observation period was not performed). 
  • The blood or urine tests are invalid.  Similar to the breath test, the defense can challenge the administration of the tests.
  • There is no evidence that the driver was impaired by a “drug of abuse.”   This may be raised where the driver refused urine tests, there is no blood test and no admissions by the driver that he or she used drugs.  This defense was successfully used recently in one case, resulting in a dismissal of the physical control charge.
  •  There is another explanation for failure of field sobriety tests.  For example, bad knees, a bad back, etc. 

COLUMBUS PHYSICAL CONTROL CHARGE ATTORNEY

If you have been charged with physical control, talk to a local Columbus physical control attorney who can assess your case.  In a free consultation, an attorney can analyze whether any of the above defenses – or others – might apply and whether there may be a chance of reduction or dismissal of your case.

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