Have you ever taken a good look at Minnesota’s DWI Law? At first glance, it seems pretty straightforward. It reads as follows:
to drive, operate, or be in control of any motor vehicle anywhere in the state while:
- under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or (knowingly) a hazardous substance, or any combination of these;
- having an alcohol concentration (AC) of .08 or more at the time or within two hours of doing so;
- having any amount or the metabolites of a schedule I or II controlled substance, other than marijuana, in the body; or
- if the vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle, having an alcohol concentration of .04 or more at the time or within two hours of doing so; or
to refuse to submit to a chemical test of the person’s blood, breath, or urine under Minnesota Statutes, section 169A.52 (implied consent law).
So, what happens when you realize that you shouldn’t be driving and instead you decide to go to sleep in your car? Can you really be charged with a DWI?
Can You Prove You Weren’t Driving?
Let’s say you were intoxicated and made the choice to sleep in your car, because we all know that driving while intoxicated is a bad choice. Just while you are trying to get some much needed rest, you see blue lights, hear a knock on your window, and have a police officer staring you down. Unfortunately, you are charged with DWI and you weren’t even driving. The courts will look at some factors in trying to determine if you had been driving while under the influence:
- Location of the vehicle– Was it on the road where driving was possible or was it clearly off the road?
- Location of the keys-Were your keys in the ignition or were they some place else?
- Your location-Where were you in the car while you were sleeping?
- Vehicle’s operability-Could the vehicle have been driven?
What does Minnesota’s DWI Law Say?
The law, shared above, doesn’t really make it clear as to if sleeping in your car while intoxicated is acceptable. However, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled on this decision in January 2010. While they never gave a clear answer to the question concerning if a DWI was warranted for falling asleep behind the wheel, it was implied by the court that individuals could be charged or convicted, even if they weren’t driving, but had a legal blood alcohol content over .08.
It has always been clear in Minnesota that it’s illegal to drive or operate a vehicle while under the influence. But it is also illegal to be in “physical control” of any vehicle when impaired or found to be over the legal limit of .08. There are two actions under which state laws define “physical control.” The first definition is initiating movement of the vehicle. The second one is if an individual is close to the operating controls and able to start the vehicle easily. The law was put into place to cover situations where an intoxicated individual may be a source of danger, and as an attempt to discourage intoxicated individuals from getting into a vehicle unless they are a passenger.
Has Anyone Been Charged for DWI While Sleeping in Their Car?
The case of State v. Fleck involved a man, Fleck, who had consumed about 12 beers before he stumbled out to his car to sleep off the alcohol that he had drank. He was charged with a DWI. Even though Fleck’s engine was cold and the keys were far from his ignition, his blood alcohol level was above the legal limit. It was concluded that Fleck was in “physical control” of the vehicle when arrested. Since this was his fourth DWI, he was sentenced to 48 months in custody.
As you can see, being charged with a DWI while sleeping in your vehicle puts you in a sticky situation. While we recommend finding a safe ride home before crawling into your car, we also understand that this may be your best option. If you find yourself with a DWI charge, contact us so we can discuss your options.
Disclaimer: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.