Jason Lantz, Attorney with the Sullivan Law Group, PLLC, recently testified in the Washington House of Representatives Public Safety Committee on a DUI and impaired driving bill. The proposed bill would have eliminated the safely off the roadway defense in physical control cases which have the same consequences as DUI cases.
Physical control is basically a DUI where the driver is found by the officer behind the wheel but the vehicle is parked or on the shoulder and not moving. For years, people accused of physical control have been able to explain to a jury, that although they were in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence, they were safely off the roadway. If the jury believed that the person was safely off the roadway, the jury would have to say not guilty.
The purpose of the safely off the roadway defense is to encourage DUI drivers to get off the road and park their vehicle. Although drivers in physical control, but safely off the roadway, can be arrested and charged, the safely off the roadway defense allows drivers to show a jury that they did the right thing. If the jury agrees, then they would say not guilty.
By eliminating the safely off the roadway defense, drivers would have lost the opportunity to show a jury that they did a right thing. Jason testified that this would eliminate the incentive for DUI drivers to do the right thing and get off the road. Legislators agreed and removed this language from the bill which saved the safely off the roadway defense.