Published on:

Court Analyzes What Constitutes Actual Control of a Car in Pennsylvania DUI Cases

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.

Factual Background

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.

The court noted that the defendant was convicted under a provision that required the Commonwealth to show that he was driving or operating the SUV or had actual control of the SUV when he was stopped.  In determining whether a person has actual control of a vehicle, the court weighs a variety of factors, including whether the motor is running, where the vehicle is located, and any other evidence indicating the defendant had driven the vehicle. In the subject case, the court stated that the Commonwealth had established more than the defendant’s mere presence near the vehicle, but had proven that he owned the vehicle, which was running, and that he had a key to the vehicle. Additionally, there were no other people at the scene who have driven the SUV. Thus, the court affirmed the defendant’s conviction.

Meet with a Skilled Pennsylvania DUI Defense Attorney Regarding Your Case

If you live in Pennsylvania and are charged with a DUI it is vital to meet with a skilled  Pennsylvania DUI attorney to discuss your case and your available defenses. Attorney Zachary B. Cooper is a knowledge Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney who will develop compelling arguments on your behalf to help you retain your rights. Mr. Cooper can be contacted at (215) 542-0800 or through the form online to schedule a free and confidential consultation regarding your case.