How to Fight an Actual Physical Control Charge in Oklahoma
Imagine this common scenario: You go out with friends for the night, but you realize you’re too intoxicated to drive home. You decide to wait in your car for a ride to pick you up – or even sleep it off and drive home later. You may have believed you were doing the right thing, but you can still be charged with actual physical control in Oklahoma, and the consequences can be serious. Learn more about this unique charge and what you can do to fight it.
What Is Actual Physical Control in Oklahoma?
Actual physical control, or APC, is similar to a charge of driving under the influence (DUI), except you do not have to be driving the vehicle. Under an actual physical control charge, you just need to have the ability to operate the vehicle and have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or more. If you are in a vehicle, have the ability to operate it, and are under the influence, you can be charged with APC.
In practice, actual physical control in Oklahoma is typically the charge used if you’re found in a working car (that is, the car is able to drive), but you’re not actually operating it. In Oklahoma, many defendants have been found guilty of APC if they’re sleeping or unconscious in the driver’s seat, and you could also be charged if you’re sleeping in the backseat. APC also applies if an officer observes you leaving the car intoxicated, that is, if they see you exit the driver’s side door. It can even apply if your car has a flat tire, but you have the keys in your possession and the ability to fix the flat tire.
What’s the Punishment for Actual Physical Control?
Actual physical control in Oklahoma is treated the same as a DUI charge. This means that if convicted, you could face:
- First offense: Misdemeanor charge, up to 1 year in jail and $1,000 in fines, plus court costs. License revoked for 6 months.
- Second offense: Felony charge, up to 5 years in jail and $2,500 in fines, plus court costs. License revoked for 1 year.
- Third offense: Felony charge, up to 10 years in jail and $5,000 in fines, plus court costs. License revoked for 2 years.
When you’re arrested for a DUI in Oklahoma, your drivers’ license will be suspended at the time of your arrest, and you’ll need to appeal to get it back. You’ll also have to participate in an alcohol assessment and a victim impact panel, and may have to do community service. You might also have to install an ignition interlock device on your car, which is essentially a breathalyzer you must blow into in order to start the vehicle.
How to Fight an Actual Physical Control Charge
Actual physical control in Oklahoma is just as serious as a DUI, and your defense strategies will essentially be the same as if you had gotten a DUI. The first thing to do is contact an experienced lawyer who can evaluate the strength of the state’s case against you and form your defense.
APC is charged when an officer does not observe you driving the vehicle. That makes these cases unique, as they don’t usually involve traffic stops. And that means that the officer doesn’t have to prove they had probable cause to pull you over – they only need to prove they had probable cause to suspect you were under the influence. But you still have options to fight an APC charge:
Prove There Was No Probable Cause for the Sobriety Test
Even without a traffic stop, law enforcement still needs to have a reason to give you a breathalyzer or field sobriety test. Most of the time, the arresting officer will testify that they smelled alcohol on your breath, your eyes were bloodshot, or they saw drugs or an open container of alcohol in or near your vehicle. Courts tend to believe officer testimony, so this evidence can be difficult – but not impossible – to fight.
Prove That Proper Protocol Was Not Followed
The state often relies on breathalyzers or blood tests to prove a charge of actual physical control in Oklahoma. But there are strict rules they must follow for this evidence to be admissible, including:
- Anyone who administers a breathalyzer must hold a Breath Alcohol Operator Permit. Only certain licensed professionals can administer and analyze blood tests.
- Blood samples must be properly handled, stored, and tracked to ensure they’re not contaminated.
- Breathalyzers must be properly calibrated and tested regularly. Poorly maintained breathalyzers often result in high readings, which is a common way to fight an APC charge.
- Before giving a breathalyzer, the officer must make sure you don’t eat or drink anything for 15 minutes. They also need to make sure you don’t have anything in your mouth, like gum.
Many people aren’t aware there are so many rules around breath and blood tests in Oklahoma – but this can make all the difference in your actual physical control case.
What About Miranda Rights?
One important note: An officer’s failure to read your Miranda Rights typically won’t get your case dismissed. That’s because Miranda Rights only apply to things you say that the state wants to use against you – and actual physical control charges typically don’t depend on the words you speak. As long as the state’s case doesn’t rest on what you’ve said, the fact that the arresting officer didn’t read your Miranda Rights usually won’t matter.
Plead Your Case to a Lesser Charge or Sentence
Getting a charge of actual physical control in Oklahoma dismissed can be difficult. But even if you can’t get your charges dropped, an experienced attorney can help you get the best possible outcome, including:
- Pleading to a lesser charge: Depending on the strength of the case against you, your lawyer may be able to get your charges reduced to reckless driving or driving while impaired (DWI), which typically have lighter sentences.
- A deferred sentence: With a deferred sentence, the judge will sentence you to probation, and once you complete it, your case is dismissed.
The Bottom Line
In Oklahoma, actual physical control is a serious charge that’s treated the same as a DUI. But it doesn’t have to ruin your life. We understand the many situations that could lead to this type of charge, and we’re here to help you get back on track. Contact the Khalaf Law Firm for a free case evaluation, and we’ll help you fight your APC charge.