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Davis County DUI Attorney - Actual Physical Control

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,.

Finding a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Davis County

Davis County prosecutors and judges take drunk driving charges seriously. If you are facing prosecution for DUI or other criminal charges in Davis County, Utah, contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.

Utah criminal defense lawyer Stephen Howard offers legal services to clients throughout Davis County and all of Utah. His track record includes not guilty verdicts or dismissals on charges including DUI, aggravated robbery, forgery, burglary, fraud, drug charges and more.


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  • Criminal Defense Trial AttorneyNot Guilty - Client was charged with aggravated assault for allegedly pointing handgun at and threatening another driver during a road rage incident. Defense investigation and analysis, combined with effective cross-examination at trial indicated the alleged victim was the initial aggressor and suported client's self-defense claim. Jury acquitted client at trial.
  • Drug Crimes Defense Attorney Utah Dismissed - Client facing first-degree felony drug distribution charge and potential life in prison. Charges were based on allegations that client had sold drugs to an undercover police officer, then made a full confession. Successful mitigation work resulted in negotiated offer of misdemeanor plea-in-abeyance and ultimate dismissal of case.
  • Utah Expungement Attorney Expungement - Worked to restore client's expungement eligibility through 402 reduction process, then filed successful expungement petitions in multiple courts obtaining expungement orders and clearing client's official criminal history.
  • Utah Burglary Defense Attorney Not Guilty - Client was charged with second-degree felony residential burglary and facing potential prison time. Investigation by the defense revealed multiple witnesses, missed by police and prosecutors, who supported client's claim of innocence. At trial, the jury returned a "not guilty" verdict on all charges.
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Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

Attorney Stephen Howard practices as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC and Stephen W. Howard, PC.

Offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties
560 South 300 East, Suite 200, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
952 S. Main St., Suite A, Layton, UT 84041

Call now to arrange for a confidential initial consultation with an experienced and effective Utah criminal defense lawyer.

In Salt Lake City, call 801-449-1409.
In Davis County, call 801-923-4345.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

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