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Seattle DUI in Physical Control Laws

In Physical Control of the Vehicle Under the Influence

In Washington State, it is against the law to operate a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This is referred to as DUI.  What some people do not realize is that in Washington, it is also illegal to be responsible for the operation a vehicle in any way while intoxicated. Under Washington law RCW 6.61.504, it is unlawful to be “in physical control of a vehicle” while under the influence in any of the following circumstances:

  • While intoxicated by alcohol with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or more as shown by a blood test performed within 2 hours of the arrest
  • While intoxicated by marijuana with a THC concentration of 5.00 or more as shown by a blood test performed within 2 hours of the arrest
  • While intoxicated by alcohol to a point that it is physically obvious to observers
  • While intoxicated by marijuana to a point that it is physically obvious to observers
  • While intoxicated by a combination of marijuana and alcohol to a point that it is physically obvious to observers

Being in physical control while under the influence is a serious crime that can result in penalties like license suspension and incarceration. If you or a family member has been arrested for this crime in Seattle, call our office today to find out more about the charge and what Attorney Karimi can do for you.

Physical Control and DUI Laws in Washington

Physical control of a vehicle under the influence is very similar to driving under the influence and is generally meant to be included when referring to DUI law in Washington. Even the definitions of both laws are so similar that some people do not realize the differences. Under this law, it is a crime to not just drive a vehicle, but exhibit any behavior that would show that you were or could be in control of the vehicle while impaired. The law is intentionally left vague so that it can be open to the court's interpretation. An example of how this law could be applied is as follows:

Defendant got behind the wheel and then realized they had drunk too much and decided to call a friend for a ride instead. They remain in the driver's side of the vehicle with the keys in their hand while they wait for a ride when an officer approaches.

Because the defendant in this case had the ability to be in control of the vehicle and was under the influence, they could be charged with this DUI crime. The definition of the law is so vague that any situation involving a vehicle and a person who is intoxicated could be subject to a criminal charge. The good news is that the broadness of the law also gives you a lot of room for defense.

Seattle Physical Control DUI Penalties

As with any DUI charge, physical control of a vehicle under the influence can lead to serious penalties. The sentencing guidelines for this crime are the same as they are for DUI under RCW 46.61.502. Also like DUI laws, any prior convictions for any DUI crime will result in steeper sentencing. Penalties for physical control DUI are as follows:

  • First offense in 7 years
    • Up to one year of jail time
    • Up to $5,000 in fines
    • 90 days to 1 year of license suspension
  • Second offense in 7 years
    • Up to one year of jail time
    • Up to $5,000 in fines
    • 2 to 3 years of license suspension
  • Third+ offense in 7 years
    • Up to one year of jail time
    • Up to $5,000 in fines
    • 3 to 4 years of license suspension
    • Alcohol assessment and a treatment program
    • Sobriety monitoring

These penalties are severe and even first time offenders can be sentenced to incarceration. There are ways to avoid these penalties, however, when you hire an experienced defense lawyer to help you fight your charges. In cases of physical control of a vehicle, your defense team will try to prove one of the following:

  • That you were not intoxicated at the time of the incident OR
  • That you were not in physical control of the vehicle

DUI cases only use the first defense, but physical control DUI cases can have more defense options because it is not a crime to be intoxicated if you were not controlling a vehicle. The vagueness of the law can be beneficial to you when building your defense because evidence such as your phone history showing you called a cab may prove to the court that you were not intending to drive.

Seattle Physical Control Under the Influence Attorney

The biggest mistake that you can make when facing charges for being in control of a vehicle under the influence is to not take your situation seriously. Even a first time offender with a clean driving record will be subject to jail time, fines and a minimum of 90 days of license suspension if you do not take action right away. In fact, the Washington Department of Licensing (DOL) will suspend your license if you do not request a hearing with them within 20 days of your arrest. For more information on how to get the best results in your case, call our office today to speak to Attorney Steve Karimi.


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Contact The Law Offices of Steve Karimi for a free consultation by calling us at 206-660-6200 or by completing the form in the sidebar. You will be put in touch with an top rated Seattle DUI attorney who will listen to you.

Seattle DUI Lawyer

If you have been charged with DUI in Seattle or the surrounding area, call The Law Offices of Steve Karimi. He has the skills and the experience to get you the best possible results. Do not trust your future to just anyone, get an experienced professional to defend you.