Pennsylvania DUI charges are like any other criminal charge, in that the Commonwealth is required to prove each element of the alleged crime to obtain a conviction. One of the elements that the Commonwealth must prove in DUI cases is that the defendant was in actual physical control of the vehicle. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently analyzed the issue of what constitutes physical control in a case in which the defendant appealed his DUI conviction due to the fact he was not driving when he was investigated by the police. If you are charged with a DUI but were not driving your vehicle when you were stopped it is essential to speak with a skilled Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to discuss what defenses you may be able to set forth to avoid a conviction.
It is alleged that the police observed an SUV parked perpendicular to the roadway at 9:15 pm. The headlights were on and the SUV was running. The back wheels of the SUV were in a ditch. The defendant was standing very close to the SUV and had a key for the SUV in his pocket. There were no other people in proximity to the SUV. The defendant was restrained by the police and arrested and charged with DUI and operating a vehicle without a valid inspection. Following a bench trial, the court found that the defendant was highly intoxicated at the time of his arrest and convicted him of both charges. The defendant appealed.
What Constitutes Physical Control of a Vehicle
The issue on appeal was whether the mere fact that the defendant was intoxicated and in close proximity of the SUV was sufficient to show that he operated the SUV while intoxicated. The court noted that the evidence produced at trial does not have to preclude every possibility of innocence. Further, the court stated that the fact finder is free to believe, all, some, or none of the evidence presented.