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Salt Lake City DUI Defense Attorney - "Actual Physical Control"

Under Utah DUI laws, a person can be charged with DUI without actually driving a vehicle.  Like most DUI statutes, Utah's DUI statute provides that a person can be convicted for "driving" while under the influence.  But under Utah law, a person can be convicted of DUI even if he or she is only in "actual physical control" of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The Utah Court of Appeals gave the term "actual physical control" a broad interpretation in the case of State v. Barnhart, 850 P.2d 473 (Utah Ct. App. 1993).  According to the opinion of the Utah Court of Appeals, the legislature "intended to prevent intoxicated persons from causing harm by apprehending them before they operate a vehicle."  To be in "actual physical control of a vehicle," the court held that a person "only needs to have the apparent ability to start and move a vehicle in order to be in actual physical control."  According to the Utah Court of Appeals, the a person does not have to actually move the vehicle to be in "actual physical control."

To determine whether a person is in "actual physical control" of a vehicle, a jury may consider factors including whether the person was awake or asleep when found by police, which seat of the vehicle the person is sitting in, whether the vehicle's engine was running, whether the person had the keys to the ignition, whether there was anyone else in the vehicle, the vehicle's position, how the vehicle got to that place, and other factors the jury may deem relevant.

Whether you are actually "driving" a vehicle under the influence, or are only in "actual physical control," the penalties for a conviction can be equally harsh.  DUI convictions in Utah carry mandatory sentencing provisions, even on a misdemeanor level.  If you have two prior DUI convictions (or convictions for related charges) within a 10-year period, your third DUI can be charged as a felony.

If you are facing DUI charges in Salt Lake City or elsewhere in Utah, you need an experienced Utah criminal defense attorney on your side.  Based in Salt Lake City, criminal defense lawyer Stephen Howard offers legal services to clients throughout Utah.  He has successfully defended charges ranging from homicide to DUI and virtually everything in between.  His track record speaks for itself.

Contact us now to schedule an initial consultation and case analysis with Salt Lake criminal lawyer Stephen Howard.


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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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