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Thanks to enforcement efforts, awareness campaigns and local media, most drivers realize it is illegal to drive drunk. In Georgia, if you have a blood alcohol concentration above 0.08% before climbing behind the wheel, you may face charges for driving under the influence. It may surprise you to know you do not have to be driving to run afoul of state law, however.

For a person to be guilty of a DUI offense, he or she must have actual physical control of a vehicle. While driving is clearly evidence of actual physical control, other behaviors may also constitute it. Therefore, if you have had too much to drink, you must be certain not to be in physical control of a vehicle.

Relevant factors

Determining actual physical control often requires a case-by-case analysis. Still, courts regularly consider a few factors when investigating whether a DUI defendant had actual physical control of a vehicle. These include the following:

  • Whether the person owns the vehicle
  • Whether the person has possession of the car’s keys
  • Whether the keys are in the ignition
  • Whether the car’s engine is running
  • Whether the person makes incriminating statements to police or others

It is important to realize you do not have to satisfy all these factors to have actual physical control over a vehicle. Even if only one applies to you, a judge or jury may hold you responsible for violating Georgia’s DUI laws.

Your next step

While there is usually nothing wrong with enjoying beer, wine or liquor, you must be careful not to have actual physical control of a vehicle. Before your next night on the town, find a designated driver or arrange other transportation home.

If you are already facing DUI charges, investigating whether you had actual physical control of the vehicle may be critical. After all, if you were not in control of the car at the time of your arrest, you may have a valid defense.