A person does not have to be actually driving a vehicle to be charged with DUI under Utah law. According to Utah’s drunk driving statutes, a person can be convicted of DUI if they are either “driving” or in “actual physical control” of a vehicle while intoxicated. Whether driving a vehicle or just in “actual physical control,” the penalties for a DUI in Utah can be equally harsh. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side can be critical. Contact us today to arrange for an initial confidential consultation.
Elements of Actual Physical Control
The concept of “actual physical control” is not clearly defined by statute. But appellate courts will often look to the apparent intent of the legislature when interpreting statutes that are less than perfectly clear.
The Utah Court of Appeals held that the legislature “intended to prevent intoxicated persons from causing harm by apprehending them before they operate a vehicle.” State v. Barnhart, 850 P.2d 473 (Utah Ct. App. 1993]. The court continued, stating that “a person need not actually move a vehicle, but only needs to have the apparent ability to start and move a vehicle in order to be in actual physical control.”
When determining if a person is in “actual physical control” of a vehicle for purposes of a Utah DUI charge, the Court of Appeals has listed several factors that can be considered. For example, a jury may consider whether or not the person had the apparent ability to start and move the vehicle, how the car got where it was found, and whether the person drove it there. Other factors include (but are not limited to) whether the person was asleep or awake when found by police, the position of the automobile, whether the person was found in the driver’s seat, whether the vehicle’s engine was running, whether there was anyone else in the vehicle, whether the person had the ignition key,.