Physical Control… What Does It Mean?

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Picture a quaint little town with excellent restaurants serving a wide variety of wonderfully prepared food and a multitude of drinks for everyone. One of those little towns with just enough of a mix of sophistication and local hang out bars for anyone to find something to suit their tastes.  This is exactly the type of setting that is found in the suburb of Willoughby, Ohio, sometimes referred to as DTW’s (DT-Dubs) by some area residents.

Imagine having a wonderful night out in this quaint little town sampling many of the delicious offerings including the creative adult beverages – just enough of those adult beverages that driving is out of the question.  So perhaps sleeping it off in the car is the safest option to avoid an OVI, commonly referred to as a DUI.  But it sure is a cold night, so instead of climbing into the backseat, the front seat wins out so that you can turn the car on to stay warm. 

Suddenly, a police officer is knocking on the window, pulling you out of the car and hauling you down to the police station with a resulting charge of physical control.  What on Earth does that mean?

Physical control is similar to an OVI in that both deal with vehicles and being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  However, physical control does not require a person to be driving the car and in fact doesn’t even required the car to have been started.  Physical control, pursuant to R.C. 4511.194, only requires a person to be in the driver’s position of the front seat of the vehicle and have possession of the ignition device, or simply speaking, the key.  

There are some other key differences between an OVI and a Physical Control.  For instance, a physical control is not a moving violation and therefore does not carry points on a driver’s license.  Additionally, a physical control is not enhanceable should there be any future charges of OVI or physical control. However, a judge is still going to look at any previous charges when deciding what sentence to impose.  Prior physical control charges will most likely result in harsher penalties.

There are, in fact, similar penalties to an OVI that anyone charged with a physical control will face.  A physical control is a first-degree misdemeanor which means a judge can impose a maximum sentence of 180 days in jail with possible fines of up to $1,000, plus court costs.  A judge can also suspend a driver’s license for up to twelve months.  This suspension would apply to any endorsements on the driver’s license.  Which means, if there is a CDL endorsement, that endorsement will also be suspended.  It’s worth noting, a judge cannot grant driving privileges on a CDL endorsement.

So how can someone avoid a physical control?  Besides the most obvious answer of using other means of transportation such as rideshare services or calling a family member or friend, sleeping in the back seat will help to avoid the possible scenario above.  That said, this office certainly does not recommend sleeping in the back seat of the car as that is not the safest option for anyone.

If you do find yourself in this type of situation, be sure to contact the Bangerter Law Firm! by visit our office 4124 Erie Street Willoughby, OH 44094.