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Physical Control Charge vs. OVI Charge – What’s the Difference?

Posted On: March 11th, 2020   |   Posted by: Luftman, Heck & Associates LLP
man holding breathalyzer

If you’re facing charges for operating a vehicle under the influence (OVI) in or around Columbus, Ohio, call Luftman, Heck & Associations right away. An OVI comes with harsh penalties, and the law holds it against you in the future. We’ll fight to defeat the charge. But, depending on the circumstances, you could have an OVI reduced to physical control, which will significantly diminish the consequences.

To learn more about OVI and physical control charges in Columbus, OH, contact us online or call (614) 500-3836 to schedule your free consultation with a criminal defense attorney in Columbus.

An OVI Requires Movement

Under the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Section 4511.19, it’s illegal to operate a vehicle at any time if you’re under the influence of alcohol, a drug of abuse, or both. The law goes on to define legal limits for alcohol, amphetamines, cocaine, heroin, and other substances in a person’s breath, urine, or blood.

Therefore, to be convicted you have to be operating the vehicle at the time of the stop. The definition of “operation” means you have to be causing or have caused the movement of the vehicle. An officer has to see the vehicle move. The burden of proof about whether you moved the car or not falls on the prosecution.

What if Your Car Never Moved?

There’s always the question of whether you can be charged with an OVI/DUI if you’re just sitting in your car. What if you’re sitting in the driver’s seat with the car running? What if you’re sleeping it off in the backseat, and the keys are nowhere near the ignition?

Under ORC Section 4511.194, it’s illegal to be in physical control of a vehicle, which means you’re in the driver’s seat and possess the keys, while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both.

If you’re in the driver’s seat and have the keys, whether you’ve turned the car on or not, you can be charged with a crime. If you’re in the passenger seat or backseat, an officer can’t charge you with a crime. If they do, you have a strong defense.

Columbus OVI vs. Physical Control Penalties

Both an OVI and physical control are first-degree misdemeanors. But the penalties for an OVI are much harsher.

Ohio OVI Penalties

If this is your first OVI offense, it can result in jail time between 3 days and 6 months. If you had a high BAC, though, you would face a minimum of 6 days in jail. The judge can order you through drug or alcohol treatment in addition to or in place of incarceration. You’ll be fined up to $1,075, and have your license suspended for between 6 months and 3 years. An OVI also comes with 6 driver’s license points.

The law punishes second and subsequent OVIs with additional time in jail, higher fines, and a longer driver’s license suspension. When you can drive again, you likely have to install an ignition interlock device.

Ohio Physical Control

If you’re convicted of physical control while intoxicated for the first time, you face a lot less jail time—between zero and 180 days. While an OVI results in a driver’s license suspension, this penalty is optional for physical control. You might be able to keep your license.

While an OVI comes with 6 license points, physical control doesn’t have any because it’s not a moving violation. However, you can still face court-ordered drug or alcohol treatment and hefty fines.

Additionally, any OVI conviction can result in enhanced penalties if you’re charged with an OVI in the future. A physical control conviction doesn’t trigger the same issue. You won’t face enhanced minimum punishments if you are charged with a second physical control offense or an OVI in the future.

Administrative Penalties

An issue you can face with both an OVI and physical control charge is an administrative license suspension (ALS). If you refuse a chemical test after an arrest, or you fail a breath, urine, or blood test, then the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles automatically suspends your license.

For a first-time refusal, it’s a one-year suspension. For a first failed test, it’s a 90-day suspension. This is a separate penalty from losing your license as part of a criminal conviction.

Let a Columbus OVI Lawyer Help You

The last thing you want to do is try to fight an OVI or physical control charge on your own. The best thing you can do to beat the charges or reduce the potential punishment is to work with an experienced OVI defense lawyer from Luftman, Heck & Associates. We are seasoned DUI defense attorneys who thoroughly investigate each case, look for the strongest possible defense, and fight hard for our clients.

Call us today at (614) 500-3836 or submit your information online to request your free initial consultation.

I can FINALLY breathe easy now. I want to thank Mr. Bowen and all the attorneys that helped me with this case.

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