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Had Too Many to Drive? Don’t Sleep It Off Inside the Car!

Did you know that you could get a DWI/DUI even if you have not been driving? According to Minnesota law, it is unlawful for “any person to drive, operate, or be in physical control of a motor vehicle” while under the influence of alcohol or with an alcohol concentration of .08 or more. Minn. Stat. § 169A.20, subd. 1(1), (5).

In State v. Fleck, the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld a conviction for DWI when the defendant was found in his car sleeping without the car running, but with the keys in the center console. The Supreme Court decided that Mr. Fleck was in “physical control” of a motor vehicle even though the car was not running or moving. This case solidifies a long history of cases that have upheld convictions for DWI when drivers are able to exercise dominion over the vehicle.

The term “physical control” is more comprehensive than either the term “drive” or “operate” and is meant to cover situations when an intoxicated person is found in a parked vehicle under circumstances in which, without too much difficulty, the vehicle might be started and driven. Therefore, a person is in “physical control” of a vehicle if he has the means to initiate any movement of that vehicle, and he is in close proximity to the operating controls of the vehicle. 

The court must consider a number of factors in determining whether a person is in “physical control” of a vehicle, including:

  • the person’s location in proximity to the vehicle
  • the location of the keys, whether the person was a passenger in the vehicle
  • who owned the vehicle, and the vehicle’s operability.

- State v. Starfield, 481 N.W.2d 834, 837 (Minn. 1992).

If you have had too much to drink, do not sleep/sit/wait in your car until you are sober enough to drive. Call a sober driver to pick you up, or stay inside your home or the establishment where you were drinking. Do not wait in your car for your sober driver to arrive; it might seem like the responsible thing to do, but, according to Minnesota law, you would be just as guilty of a DWI as if you got behind the wheel and drove.

If you have been charged with a DWI/DUI, whether you were driving or not, you need an experienced legal advocate to fight for your rights.

To learn more, contact our office!