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What is ORC 4511.194?

Physical Control of a Vehicle Ticket Attorneys

Imagine hanging out one night with your friends and you drank a little too much. You leave the bar with every intent to relax in the car and even sleep your buzz off. You get in the car, throw your keys on the passenger side chair, and close your eyes. 10 minutes into your power nap you hear a tap on your window and wake up to a light in your eye. A police officer asks for your identification and to step out of the vehicle. You comply, state you had a few beers and thinking that you’ve slept it off, agree to a breathalyzer test. After taking the test, the police officer arrests you for being in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. This is something new to you and immediately think, “Well, I wasn’t driving.”

What is ORC 4511.194?

Ohio state law makes it a crime to be in physical control of a vehicle (O.R.C. 4511.194) and having possession of the vehicle’s key or other ignition devices. This includes the person who responsibly decides to not drive and to “sleep it off” instead.

The law further states that anyone in physical control of a vehicle that is under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both, or whose whole blood, blood serum or plasma, breath, or urine contains at least the concentration of alcohol specified in division (A)(1)(b), (c), (d), or (e) of section 4511.19 of the Revised Code can be arrested and prosecuted.

In any criminal prosecution or juvenile court proceeding, the officer is allowed to testify concerning the administered field sobriety test; the prosecution can introduce and enter the results as evidence into the record; and if correctly introduced and admitted according to the Rule of Evidence, the trier of fact, usually a judge or jury, “shall give it whatever weight the trier of fact considers to be appropriate.”

It’s clear that this law is not the same as “operating” a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other substances. In fact, it’s not supposed to be.  Operating a vehicle is the action of causing or having caused a vehicle to physically move.  (Cincinnati v. Kelley).  This type of violation can result in a charge for OVI/DUI, also known as drunk driving.

What Are The Consequences of a Physical Control Violation?

If one violates this law and is found guilty of being in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence it is a misdemeanor in the first degree.  This means the court may suspend a driver’s license up to 1 year, impose a fine of up to $1,000, and, in some cases, require a maximum jail sentence of six months. This also includes commercial drivers and those with temporary driving permits.

Ohio state legislatures believed that those responsible enough to sleep it off instead of drinking and driving should not be punished as harshly as someone who actually decided to drive drunk. That is why violation of the physical control laws results in a misdemeanor and a minimum license suspension rather than the punishments that a DUI may bring. It also carries no “points” on an Ohio driver’s license and doesn’t trigger harsher penalties for those with an OVI on their prior record. For commercial truck drivers, physical control laws prevent DUI/OVI convictions appearing as “major incidents” on a CDL driver’s record.

Although these laws are in place to minimize punishments for those responsible enough to not drive drunk, it still brings up the debate of whether you were intending to drive or consciously made a decision to self-regulate and sleep in a parking lot before driving drunk. It also invokes the thought that you can be found guilty of physical control of your vehicle simply because your keys were on the passenger side seat and not in your trunk. Some believe that the location of the keys shouldn’t matter unless it’s actually in the ignition. Others feel that in order to not be guilty of physical control law violations you shouldn’t have to lay in the backseat versus the driver’s seat. At the end of the day, the responsible driver that had too much to drink simply just wants to be safe, not drive drunk, and at the same time not being punished for it.

What Are Some Defenses to a Physical Control Violation?

Some defenses depend on the circumstance, but many of them will apply to a stop and arrest for a physical control violation. If stopped and it was determined that drugs were in your system and you used them as directed, this could play a role in the defense. Although you still can be convicted even if you used the meds as prescribed.

Another defense is claiming that the police didn’t have a proper excuse, or reasonable suspicion, to suspect that you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Finally, the type of sobriety test and its accuracy can be challenged, as well as the procedure used by the officer.

Every way you see it, fighting a physical control violation will an uphill battle. The toughest part about this type of violation is that the courts and prosecution will make it sound enticing because the punishments aren’t as harsh as a DUI/OVI. In order to face the charges against you and to save you from the costly fines, driver’s license suspensions, possible jail time, and other punishments use your right to an attorney and call us now!