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Memorial Day Weekend 2020: DWI and BWI Arrests Still Likely Despite COVID-19

Many of us celebrated Memorial Day differently this year. Parades, concerts, and ceremonies were off the table as we continue to feel the effects of social distancing and COVID-19. Even so, Gov. Tim Walz is slowly loosening the state’s stay-at-home order, and those with cabin fever are likely itching to get out. Small gatherings with close family and friends were allowed, as was responsible boating on one of the state’s 10,000 lakes. With that though, comes the possibility of DWI and BWI arrests on what historically is one of the state’s most popular holidays for partying. 

Driving While Impaired arrests have been way down ever since the pandemic broke out in March. Bars and restaurants have been closed. People have been drinking at home instead of heading out to meet friends. Because of that, law enforcement officers are likely looking to make DWI and BWI arrests over the holiday weekend. They know that even the most cautious social distancers want to enjoy their day – and partake in as many normal activities as possible despite the COVID-19 restrictions. 

Minneapolis DWI Attorney 

Were you cited for DWI? Minneapolis DWI attorney Gerald Miller and his experienced legal team have defended some of the most difficult DWI cases in the state. Call Minnesota DWI and criminal law firm Gerald Miller, PA at 612-440-4608 or contact us here. We’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your first case evaluation is free. 

The criminal defense attorneys at Gerald Miller Law Firm will look at your case and remind you that there is always hope. There is a lot that a lawyer with experience in DWI cases can do to help – including getting your charges reduced or dismissed completely. 

Memorial Day DWI Arrests 

DWI arrests are common over Memorial Day weekend; it’s just behind the 4th of July in rankings. In fact, the “100 deadliest days” of driving occur in the period between Memorial Day and Labor day — and a spike in arrests seen during this weekend makes sense, even with the bars and restaurants closed this year. 

Drinking and Boating in Minnesota 

State orders about maintaining a social distance of 6 feet and avoiding large crowds apply at the state’s lakes, including Lake Minnetonka, the Twin Cities’ largest and most popular lake. The state’s Department of Natural Resources was expecting a surge over Memorial Day, and sent out a statement last week reminding people to use caution, and that includes drinking alcohol. 

“Over 50% of our fatality accidents on the water involve alcohol. So we are asking people to be out there to enjoy themselves, have fun but do it sober, or plan a sober driver just like you would on the road,”  DNR Conservation Officer Jeremy Henke said in the statement. 

You could expect DNR officers to be on the water all weekend, looking for people who are drinking and boating. Minnesota authorities and the DNR have in recent years teamed up to increase their drunken boating enforcement efforts. The effort to get intoxicated boaters off of Minnesota’s rivers and lakes includes increasing the number of patrols near boat launches and waterways. 

Officers conduct field sobriety tests on rivers and lakes. Instead of walking in a straight line like on the side of the road, those suspected of BWI are asked to do other things to test them: count backwards, touch their nose with their fingers, etc. Summer holiday weekends – including Memorial Day – are common for stepped-up BWI enforcement. 


There are some differences between a DWI and a BWI; namely, between “open container” and “physical control.” 

If you’re in a car and have a drink in your hand, you are committing a crime even if the car isn’t running. When operating a boat, though, it’s legal to have an open container of alcohol on the vessel. You can even have a drink and drive a boat while sipping it. A person driving a boat just cannot drink enough to have a BAC that is over the legal limit or be visibly drunk.  

The physical control element of DWI law also does not apply in cases of drunken boating. You can be arrested for DWI if you are standing next to your car or sleeping in the driver’s seat with the keys in your hand. If you’re on the lake with your boat anchored, beached, moored, docked, – or if it is being rowed – you can’t be charged and ultimately convicted of boating while intoxicated. Arrests do happen; officers have claimed the boater was seen driving the boat drunk. 

About Gerald Miller Law Firm 

A drunk driving citation in Minnesota is known as a DWI, which stands for driving while impaired. Many states refer to the charge as a DUI, short for diving under the influence.

A Minnesota BWI stands for boating while intoxicated. 

Regardless of what authorities call it, a police officer can arrest someone on suspicion of DWI even if he or she hasn’t been drinking. In Minnesota, “impaired” can be applied to a person who is taking legal prescription drugs or other controlled substances. It’s all up to the discretion of the arresting officer.

Sound like you or someone you know? Contact the experienced Minnesota DWI and criminal defense attorneys Gerald Miller Law Firm. Our expert team will look at your case and determine the best course of action. We will guide you through the process, working toward a positive outcome no matter the circumstances of the arrest. 

We also are experienced in defending assault, domestic assault, drug charges, probation violations, disorderly conduct, felony crimes, and more. 

We are often asked, “Should I contest this case?” Yes. You should, absolutely, positively 100 percent of the time. Every arrest is different; few are open and shut cases. We look at every aspect of the case, from time of the arrest to the officer’s actions to the accuracy of your Breath test. There is always hope.

What makes Gerald Miller different from other Minnesota criminal defense lawyers?

The Minneapolis lawyers at Gerald Miller handle all aspects of criminal law across the Twin Cities and statewide – the team can defend you on traffic citations, drug charges, theft, weapons charges, probation and parole violations and more – but they have specialized in DWIs for decades. A DWI affects your driving ability, your finances and your professional reputation. Don’t let one mistake hinder a promising future.

Call the attorneys at Gerald Miller today at 612-440-4610. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to give you some answers, a little hope and plenty of well-deserved peace of mind.

You can email us here. We can also be reached on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

About the author

Gerald Miller

Gerald Miller is a top-notch and experienced DWI/DUI lawyer at Gerald Miller P.A. in Minneapolis, MN. He has more than 35 years of experience in Criminal Defense practice. He has also been a mentor to numerous DUI/DWI defense attorneys.

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