Everyone knows that it is a crime to drive or operate a motor vehicle when under the influence of alcohol. Minnesota DWI law states that you may not get behind the wheel with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher.
The law also states however, that no driver may be in “physical control” of a motor vehicle, and this is what tends to be the source of confusion. Sure, people are aware that if they drive after consuming alcohol they can be facing serious legal ramifications, but the same rules apply even if you are not actually driving at the time of incident. The term “physical control” is much more comprehensive than the terms “drive” or “operate” and it is crucial to understand exactly what physical control encompasses.
The Minnesota Supreme Court has defined the term “physical control” in the broadest way possible.
Because the issue of physical control is case sensitive, courts will always take into account a number of factors surrounding the incident including:
- Proximity of the accused to the car
- Whether or not the accused was a passenger
- The ownership of the car
- Whether or not the car was operable at the time of the offense
The public policy of strictly preventing drunk driving must be weighed against the driver’s intent. The law is meant to encourage impaired persons in every circumstance to give control of their vehicle to an unimpaired driver.
Take for instance a situation where you are asleep in your car after a night of drinking, with your keys in the vehicle’s console. If a police officer were to pull up next to you, you could be arrested and charged with a DWI even though you were in no way “operating” the vehicle. The logic behind this is that without much difficulty, you would be able to start your vehicle and potentially become a source of danger to yourself, others, or property.
It is imperative to understand Minnesota DWI law in its entirety to realize the risk associated with driving under the influence.