Question: Do the keys have to be in the ignition for me to be charged with actual physical control in Michigan?
Answer: Keys in the ignition or within reach are not a legal standard, but they are factors in considering the legal issue of operation. As we know, it’s commonly referred to as drunk driving, but the legal terminology is operation. So in order to show that you are operating, the prosecutor must show that you are in actual physical control, or in Michigan, that you had the ability to control the motor vehicle or the car. In Michigan, the term “operation” is rather broadly defined.
But even if you only have the ability to presently operate the motor vehicle, you can be successfully charged and possibly convicted for drunk driving or operating while intoxicated. The prosecutor can also use what is called circumstantial evidence to show that at some point prior, you were operating the motor vehicle.
So, the location of the keys, the position or their location in the car, the statements that are made, are all factors in first, considering whether someone is going to be arrested, second, whether they are charged, and third, potentially convicted. However, in Michigan you are permitted to use the vehicle for shelter—but again, you could still be arrested and charged. The firm and I have successfully handled a large number of these cases, and it’s important to have an experienced trial attorney because these cases often require trial.