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Florida DUI: What is ‘Actual Physical Control’

In Florida, you can be arrested for a DUI even if the responding police officer never saw the vehicle move. This is because Florida’s DUI criminal statute includes an ‘actual physical control’ element. These cases are always very complex. If you were arrested for a DUI in Florida, and you have questions about actual physical control element, please contact an experienced Tampa DUI defense attorney for immediate legal assistance.

Defining Actual Physical Control

Under Florida law, actual physical control is defined as having the apparent ability to immediately operate the vehicle while intoxicated. This definition is extremely broad, and gives police officers extensive power to make qualitative judgments. The application of this standard to real-life scenarios is complicated. Florida courts will look at a number of different factors when determining whether or not there was actual physical control, including:

  • The location of the keys: These cases generally start with the location of the keys. This factor can provide significant evidence about the intentions of the driver. For example, if the keys were in the ignition, it more strongly suggests intent to drive, and actual control of the vehicle, than if the keys were in the pocket of the accused. However, DUI arrests can occur even if your keys were in your pocket.
  • The location of the vehicle: Courts will also consider whether or not the driver likely moved the vehicle. The location at which the vehicle was found by police will provide significant evidence. For example, If a vehicle is found stopped at an intersection, with an intoxicated person inside, police may determine that it was driven there, even if the person was not in the driver’s seat when it was located.
  • The condition of the vehicle: This will include evidence that vehicle recently moved, or was about to move. For example, if the engine was hot, or the lights were on, officers may conclude that the intoxicated person within the car likely moved the vehicle and therefore was in actual physical control of the car.
  • Evidence of intoxication: Finally, a DUI conviction still requires evidence that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was intoxicated at the time of the arrest. It is not unheard for Florida police officers to find someone sleeping in their vehicle and to mistake general grogginess for unlawful intoxication.

Police officers, and prosecutors, can be far too over inclusive when it comes to making arrests and bringing DUI charges against people who were never seen operating a vehicle. If you have been charged with a DUI under these circumstances, you need to get your cases in the hands of an experienced DUI defense attorney as soon as possible.

Contact Our Office Today

A DUI is a very serious criminal charge in Florida. If you have been arrested for a DUI, you need to act quickly. At Pawlowski//Mastrilli Law Group, our DUI defense attorneys will fight aggressively to help protect your freedom. Please do not hesitate to contact our Tampa Bay office today at (813) 242-4404 to set up a free review of your case. Our firm serves clients throughout the region, including in Sydney and Apollo Beach.

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