Physical Control is very similar to DUI, however there is a statutory defense to Physical Control which is not available in a DUI case.
What is Physical ControlIn Washington State, the crime of Physical Control has essentially the same consequences as a DUI conviction. People often wonder what Physical Control is. The Statute (RCW 46.61.504) does not exactly define the elements of Physical Control. Courts have been known to use the definition that the defendant "is in a position to physically regulate and determine movement of the vehicle." The most common scenario is when a person decides to stop driving and either wait out their impairment or sleep it off. People will pull over to the side of the road, or pull into a parking lot. Oftentimes people go to sleep. Following an arrest based on these facts, Court's determine that people sleeping in their cars with the engine running are in physical control of the vehicle.
Safely off the Roadway is a Defense to Physical ControlThere is a Statutory Defense to Physical Control. If a defendant can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that they moved the vehicle safely off the roadway, that is a complete defense to the charge. The definition begs the question - what constitutes "safely off the roadway"? The definition is left to the trier of fact, meaning the jury. The legal community (meaning prosecutors and defense) typically believes that a safely off the roadway defense has merit when the defendant has moved the vehicle off of the roadway and it presents no present danger to the community. The defense can even be present when the engine is running. This is a broad idea of the defense, and most fact patterns are different, but the defense is often available if the defense attorney knows what to look for. It can mean the difference between a conviction and a not guilty verdict.