Is a charge for having physical control of vehicle while under the influence the same as operating a vehicle while impaired?

No. An officer who arrests you for OVI saw you driving and suspected you were drunk or stoned. You can be cited on physical control just for sitting in the driver's seat and holding the ignition key.

If no officers see me driving, how will they even know to suspect I used alcohol or drugs?

Police may have seen you walking from a bar, received a tip from someone about an impaired driver in a car like yours then caught up to you after you parked, or found you sleeping in your car. You may also draw suspicion if you leave a building being watched for drug activity.

How do police collect evidence of alcohol and/or drug use?

They speak with you while watching for signs of impairment. If that interaction increases their suspicion, they will ask you to do field sobriety tests. Refusing those tests or performing poorly will result in your arrest and a requirement to provide breath, urine, and blood samples for chemical testing. You can learn more about sobriety tests from Columbus DUI Lawyers by clicking on the links in the preceding sentence.

What will police be testing for to support a physical control charge?

Alcohol, obviously, and also substances defined under law as "drugs of abuse." In addition to a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher, police will be looking for high concentrations of medications and/or street drugs that get people high. Specific drugs they test for include amphetamines, heroin, LSD, marijuana, and PCP.

If police see the test results and charge you with physical control under the influence, prosecutors will use the findings as evidence and also ask the officers involved in making the arrest to testify about your mental state and physical behavior.

Can I say no when asked to provide breath, urine, and blood samples?

Yes. Be aware, however, that refusing to participate in chemical testing will result in having your driver's license suspended. You will also most likely be charged with OVI or physical control anyway. Simply not doing the sobriety tests is considered a criminal offense.

What are the penalties for having physical control while under the influence?

Physical control violations are considered first-degree misdemeanors. Jail terms are rare, but required completion of a safe driving course and a one-year license suspension are common. Repeated convictions for physical control draw increasingly harsher penalties.

Are there ways to defend myself against a physical control charge?

The best defense involves proving that you only had a positive drug tests because you were taking prescribed medications as directed. Powerful painkillers, muscle relaxants, ADD/HD drugs, and anti-anxiety medication fall under the legal definition of drugs of abuse even though they are also essential therapies for many people.

Physical control charges can also be challenged on the grounds that officers had no reason to suspect you of having used alcohol and drugs. A third defense strategy involves questioning whether officers correctly followed the strict requirements for conducting and interpreting sobriety tests.

The Columbus, Ohio traffic violation lawyers with Campbell Law may be able to help you present these and other defenses against a physical control charge. Contact us today to schedule a free initial case consultation.