Sleeping it off in your car counts as DWI in Minnesota

| Dec 19, 2019 | DUI, DWI |

You have had beverages and you think your blood alcohol is above the legal limit. Maybe you also had a long day at work before your first drink.

Before driving home, would it be wise to climb into the back seat of your car and take a nap? Would the police give you a firm handshake and a pat on the back for doing the right thing?

No sense in arguing

The answer is no. Unfortunately (but definitely), the police and Minnesota courts would not reward you for having thought so far ahead.

Before considering whether this is fair or unfair, understand that the Minnesota Supreme Court has already decided that you cannot assume you are safe from arrest.

Minnesota Supreme Court has spoken

The case involved a man taking a nap one June evening in 2007. He chose to sleep in the driver’s seat of his car, legally parked in his assigned spot at his apartment complex, with the car door open. The keys were not in the ignition and the engine was cold.

An especially watchful neighbor called the police.

The police tested the man’s blood alcohol at 0.18, over twice the legal limit for driving. They arrested him for “being in physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.”

Because he had three other impaired driving convictions within 10 years, police charged him with a first-degree felony. The jury found him guilty and the judge sentenced him to four years in prison and five years of “conditional release.”

Assume “in physical control” means close to anything

The law says you cannot “drive, operate, or be in physical control of a motor vehicle” with a too-high blood alcohol content.

Looking at its earlier decisions, Minnesota’s Supreme Court found the words “in physical control” specifically aim to cover situations where the intoxicated person is not driving but could drive at any moment.

In fact, Minnesota DWI law used to say “actual physical control” but was changed to simply “physical control” to apply in the broadest way possible.

In general, if you are too intoxicated to drive, consider staying far away from your vehicle and its keys and find a nice couch, bed, closet or anywhere else to get some shut-eye.

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