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Can you face DUI charges just for sitting in your vehicle?

On Behalf of | Apr 23, 2022 | Drunk Driving Charges

If you enjoy drinking alcohol away from your residence, you undoubtedly realize the importance of finding a sober driver to take you home. After all, the Keystone State has some of the country’s toughest penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol. According to PennDOT, these penalties become more severe as your blood alcohol concentration climbs.

It may seem harmless to sit in your vehicle after drinking booze. Doing so, though, may put you in legal jeopardy, as you do not have to be driving to face DUI charges. Therefore, it is typically advisable to stay far away from your car after a night on the town.

Actual physical control

In the commonwealth, driving is not an element of a DUI offense. Therefore, rather than having to prove you were driving, prosecutors only must show you had actual physical control of a vehicle when your BAC was higher than the legal limit.

There is no bright-line definition of “actual physical control,” unfortunately. Still, any of the following may cause prosecutors to believe you had physical control of your vehicle at the time of your DUI arrest:

  • Sitting in your car with the ignition running
  • Steering the vehicle from the passenger’s seat
  • Pushing your car to the side of the road
  • Using your keys to unlock the driver’s side door

Your legal defense

It can be tricky for prosecutors to prove you had actual physical control of a vehicle you were not driving. You generally can expect the court to consider the totality of the circumstances, however. Ultimately, the more it looks like you were intending to drive, the greater your chances probably are of facing prosecution.