Charged with Physical Control in Seattle? Call Emerald City

A Physical Control charge in Washington is just as serious as a DUI. If you’ve been arrested for being in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence, Emerald City Law Group is here for you. Our attorneys know how technical these cases can be. We’ll focus on fighting the evidence or lack of evidence, keeping you out of jail, maintaining your driving privileges, and reducing or eliminating the penalties.

Contact Emerald City Law Group for a free consultation with an experienced Physical Control defense lawyer in Seattle. We’ll discuss what happened and what to do next.

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Physical Control in Washington: What to Know

If you’ve been arrested for being in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence, you’re probably confused and worried. After all, you probably weren’t driving at the time. Likewise, if you’re facing a DUI in Seattle, you’ve probably heard the term physical control but are unsure of what it means.

What’s Considered Physical Control in WA?

In Washington, physical control- of a motor vehicle while under the influence is distinct from driving under the influence (DUI). It essentially covers situations where you’re impaired and, in a position, to potentially operate a vehicle, even if it’s not moving.

Washington Revised Code, Section 46.61.504, describes -Physical Control as when a person is found to be in control of a vehicle while intoxicated, even if the car isn’t moving. Intoxication levels are the same as for DUI – a BAC of 0.08 or higher or a THC concentration of 5 nanograms per milliliter or more.

The Elements of Physical Control

The most common example of a physical control offense would be someone being asleep in their car because they were intoxicated, either by alcohol or drugs. And while other scenarios exist when such a charge would be appropriate, there are essentially three factors that constitute physical control:

Understanding these elements is the first step in building a strong defense against a Physical Control charge.

  • You Had Control of the Vehicle: You must have been in “actual” physical control of the vehicle. This does not necessarily mean driving but simply being in a position to operate the vehicle, such as sitting in the driver’s seat with access to the ignition.
  • You Were Intoxicated: There must be evidence of intoxication, either with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher, a THC concentration of 5 nanograms per milliliter or higher, or visible impairment due to alcohol or drugs.
  • The Timeframe Fits: The intoxication must be proven to have occurred within two hours of being in control of the vehicle, linking the state of impairment to the potential for driving.

What is “Actual Physical Control”?

As stated earlier, you don’t need to be driving to be charged with a physical control violation. You can sometimes be charged even if an officer observes you outside your vehicle. RCW 46.61.504 also prohibits the following actions and considers them as being in actual physical control:

  • Occupying the driver’s seat (even with the engine off)
  • Being in the passenger seat of a parked car with the keys in the ignition
  • Sitting in the driver’s seat of a vehicle that’s stalled or run out of gas
  • Grabbing the wheel from the driver while under the influence

Washington Physical Control Penalties

A first-time physical control offense is a gross misdemeanor, with penalties that may include:

  • Mandatory Minimum Jail Time: 1 day of jail or 15 days of Electronic Home Monitoring (EHM)
  • Maximum Jail Time: 364 days
  • Fines: Up to $5,000
  • Driver’s License Suspension (at least 90 days)
  • Installation of an IID (at least 1 year)
  • Alcohol and Drug Treatment

Penalties escalate if your BAC is .15 or higher, if you refuse BAC testing, or if you have priors.  Always consult a Seattle physical control lawyer to determine what penalties you may face.

Arrested for Physical Control? Here’s What to Expect

If you are arrested and charged with being in control of a vehicle while intoxicated, the process will be very similar to a DUI. Here are the stages your case will go through:

  • You will be taken to the police station for booking and processing.
  • You will be offered a breath test to measure your BAC. (Refusals at the police station can result in a longer license suspension)
  • You may be held in jail overnight or until you post bail.
  • You will be arraigned. You will be informed of the charges at your arraignment and can enter a plea.
  • If you plead guilty, you will be sentenced. If you plead not guilty, you will have pretrial and trial court dates set.
  • At your trial, the prosecution will try to prove that you were under the influence of or affected by alcohol or drugs while in control of a vehicle.

Physical Control vs DUI Charges

In Washington State, a Physical Control violation differs from a DUI primarily based on the vehicle’s operation. While DUIs require proof of actual driving, physical control can be filed if you are merely able to operate the vehicle while intoxicated, even if the car is stationary. The crux of a physical control charge is the potential for driving, as the law aims to prevent drunk driving before it occurs.

Regardless of whether you face a DUI or a physical control violation, if an officer believes you were in control of the vehicle while impaired and arrests you, the legal consequences kick in fast. You’ll be required to appear in court. Additionally and separate from the criminal court case, it’s important to note you still must request a civil administrative hearing with the Washington Department of Licensing to contest a license suspension.

Work with a Physical Control Lawyer

Do not take a physical control charge lightly. You should treat it as seriously as any DUI. While the court may assign you a public defender, they are often overworked and have little time to devote to individual cases. When you hire a defense attorney from Emerald City Law Group, you will get a dedicated legal advisor to customize a defense to your specific case.

Defending Against Physical Control

There are several ways to defend against accusations that you were in physical control of a vehicle while intoxicated. Examples include:

  • Safely off the roadway. If you were parked and safely off the roadway with your vehicle off, this might be a defense to Physical Control.
  • Challenge the encounter. If you are charged with Physical Control, you probably were not pulled over, but the police still need a valid reason to approach your vehicle. If there was no just cause to believe you were operating it or could operate it while impaired, your attorney could file a motion to suppress the evidence obtained during the encounter.
  • Question the breath or blood test. Even if you weren’t driving, a breath or blood test might be administered to determine impairment. If these tests were not conducted correctly or the equipment was faulty, your attorney can challenge the validity of the results.
  • Contest the field sobriety tests. The reliability of Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) can be disputed. Inaccuracies in administering or interpreting these tests can be helpful to illustrating that you were not impaired.
  • Argue that you were not impaired. Your lawyer can argue that you were not impaired, which could be supported by medical evidence indicating a condition affecting your balance or speech that might be mistaken for impairment.

If you are facing charges related to being in control of a vehicle while under the influence, it is important to consult with an experienced attorney. Emerald City Law Group is here to assess your case and develop a plan.

Physical Control Info & Resources

Our lawyers are equipped to clarify your charges, protect your rights, and guide your choices. If you have any questions about physical control charges, contact Emerald City Law Group for a free consultation.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Physical Control Charge?

Absolutely. A lawyer will strive to minimize penalties and safeguard your rights.  A lawyer will review your case, your history, advise you of proactive measures to take, and orchestrate a plan to negotiate the most favorable resolution. In addition, if your Physical Control charge is built on weak evidence, an experienced attorney can highlight the flaws and fight to get the case dismissed.  Here are some of the other benefits of hiring a lawyer:

  • Clearly understand your rights and options.
  • Challenge faulty evidence against you and work to get the charges dismissed or reduced.
  • Negotiate a favorable plea on your behalf.
  • Protect your license and secure driving privileges.
  • Represent you in court and fight for the best possible outcome.

Can I Refuse a Breathalyzer if I’m Charged with Physical Control?

You can refuse a breathalyzer test at the police station, but refusal can result in a longer license suspension term and may be used against you in court. Washington’s Implied Consent Law means that by driving, you’ve consented to breath testing at the police station if suspected of being under the influence. If you are arrested, you should not answer further questions from law enforcement, should ask to speak with an attorney at the station, and should discuss whether taking the breath test at the station is in your best interest.

Separately, you have the right to refuse all roadside field sobriety, including the roadside Portable Breath Test (PBT).  Roadside testing is voluntary and does not affect your license.  Should you take the roadside field sobriety testing, those results can be used against you and for the police officer to form probable cause to arrest you.

Will Physical Control Charges Affect My License?

Yes, a Physical Control charge can lead to driver’s license suspension, like a DUI. However, you may be able to contest the suspension with the Department of Licensing. Normally, you must contest the suspension within 7 days from the date of your arrest.  Contact an Emerald City Law Group lawyer immediately after your arrest so you do not miss this important deadline.  Should you miss this deadline, your license may go into suspension automatically.  Keeping your address current with the DOL is extremely important as well.

Can I Be Charged with Physical Control for Sleeping in My Car?

Yes, in Washington State, you can be charged with Physical Control if you are found in the driver’s seat of a vehicle and have access to the ignition, even if you were asleep and the vehicle was not moving.

Am I Eligible for Deferred Prosecution for Physical Control?

For those facing Physical Control charges and struggling with alcoholism, substance addiction, or mental health issues, deferred prosecution is indeed an option in Washington State. Under RCW 10.05, eligible individuals can choose court-monitored treatment over conventional penalties. You’ll need to commit to a treatment plan approved by the court, which is typically two years in duration, and adhere to strict conditions set by the court.

Successful completion can lead to the dismissal of the Physical Control charge, thus eliminating a conviction from your record. Failure to complete the program, however, could result in a conviction and the original penalties. Keep in mind that acceptance is not automatic. Your attorney can assist in determining eligibility, advocate for approval, and ensure you meet the requirements.

Don’t Handle Physical Control Charges Alone. Call Today

When you contact the attorneys at Emerald City Law Group, we will immediately jump into action. We will evaluate the evidence against you and identify the strengths and weaknesses of your case. From improper police encounters to faulty sobriety tests, we’ll poke holes in the case and fight to keep your record clean. If you cannot call us immediately, contact a friend or family member to call us. We will help them understand the process and get you released.

Emerald City Law Group Will:

  • Listen to your story and investigate your case thoroughly.
  • Discuss your options honestly and clearly.
  • Refer you to get an alcohol and drug evaluation if doing so would benefit your case.
  • Challenge weak evidence and aggressively advocate for you.
  • Keep you informed throughout your case.
  • Work diligently to ensure the best possible result.

Physical Control Attorneys Serving Washington – Free Consultations 24/7

Emerald City Law Group provides Seattle and the greater Washington area with top-notch legal representation for those facing impaired driving and physical control-related charges.

Seattle – Local Areas Served

  • King County – Bellevue, Auburn, Kent, Renton, Federal Way, Kirkland, Redmond, Bothell, Carnation, Duvall, Issaquah, Maple Valley, Mercer Island, Sammamish, Seattle, & Woodinville
  • Snohomish County – Everett, Lynnwood, and Marysville.
  • Pierce County – Tacoma, Puyallup, Gig Harbor, and Lakewood

Greater Washington

  • Grays Harbor
  • Kittitas County
  • Spokane County
  • Cowlitz County
  • Douglas County
  • Mason County
  • Skagit County
  • Thurston County
  • Island County
  • Mason County
  • Grays County
  • Kitsap County
  • Lewis County
  • Whatcom County
  • Whitman County
  • San Juan County