In Ohio, it’s a criminal offense to operate a vehicle while impaired (OVI). Driving around while under the intoxicating effects of alcohol, drugs or both endangers the driver, other motorists and pedestrians. This is why law enforcement makes it a priority to catch inebriated drivers before anything bad happens.
But did you know that it’s also a punishable offense to be in physical control of a motor vehicle while impaired – even if the vehicle hasn’t started moving?
Defining physical control
According to state law, it’s illegal for anyone to be in physical control of a vehicle if they’re under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a combination of the two. The law also explains that a person is in “physical control” of a vehicle when they meet the following criteria:
- They’re seated in the driver’s position of the front seat of the vehicle
- They possess the vehicle’s ignition key
This means that even if the vehicle hasn’t moved from its position, as long as the person is seated at the driver’s seat and has the keys, they can face charges.
Having physical control of a vehicle while under the influence is a misdemeanor of the first degree.
The penalties for physical control while intoxicated
If a court convicts a person of having physical control of a vehicle while impaired, they face up to 180 days in jail and $1,000 in fines. In addition, the court may impose a class seven suspension on the person’s driver’s license, which lasts for up to a year.
So, yes – it’s a criminal offense to have physical control of a vehicle while drunk or intoxicated by drugs. The offense may not have the same penalties as a conviction for OVI, but it still leads to a criminal record, plus fines, jail time and a license suspension. If you face charges, don’t underestimate them and consider your legal options with the help of an attorney.