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DWI Charges When You Were Not Driving in Minneapolis

The criminal offense of driving while impaired (DWI) typically involves the arrest of a motorist driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two. Despite the use of the word “driving” in the name of the charge itself, it is important to understand you could be charged with DWI even if your vehicle is parked.

In fact, you could face a DWI charge even in situations where you had no intention to drive at all. This is because the language used in Minnesota’s DWI statute is intentionally broad. It is designed to cover situations where the police suspect impairment of a motorist but have not seen the driving on their own.

These charges are possible, but they are also possible to beat. Often, the state’s case is weak in situations where the accused has not actually operated a motor vehicle at all. A defense attorney from our firm could help you defend yourself against these charges. Reach out to Gerald Miller today for a free consultation.

Can You be Charged with DWI When You Are Not Driving?

You can be charged—and convicted—of DWI even when you are not driving. This is due to the specific language of the state’s DWI statute. While it is true that most arrests involve a motorist actively driving a vehicle, the statute only requires that you be in physical control of a vehicle to potentially face DWI charges.

To understand what qualifies as DWI under the law, it is helpful to review the statute itself. DWI charges are governed by Minnesota Statute Section 169A.20. The statute defines DWI as driving, operating, or being in physical control of a motor vehicle while impaired.

There is little dispute on what involves driving or operating a motor vehicle, and these terms clearly do not apply to people who are not driving. However, the third term—being in physical control—is much more broad.

According to the statute, you only need to be in physical control of a vehicle to be convicted of DWI. This language intentionally covers situations beyond driving a or operating a motor vehicle. The extent of what constitutes physical control of a vehicle is covered by a series of court decisions as opposed to the language of a statute.

What is “Physical Control” according to state law in Minneapolis?

What constitutes physical control of a vehicle? This standard is not always clears to those charged with the crime of DWI. While it does not involve driving, a person must be in some sort of proximity to the vehicle to be guilty of DWI.

In short, a person must be in a position to drive immediately to be in physical control of a vehicle. Often, these charges occur when a person is behind the wheel of a running vehicle, but they are not actively driving. It is important to note that while having the keys of the vehicle in the ignition is a common sign of physical control of a vehicle, it is not a requirement. As long as the keys are easily accessible, a person could be in physical control.

For example, a person sitting in their vehicle listening to the radio could be considered in physical control even if the vehicle is not running. Alternatively, courts have found a person standing outside a running vehicle could be guilty of DWI if they are impaired. Whether or not a person is in physical control of a vehicle is a subjective standard that is ultimately up to a court to prove. This can be difficult for the state to establish beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is not uncommon for questions about what constitutes physical control of a vehicle to arise. In fact, you might be surprised to learn how the law might treat the specific facts of your case. If you have been charged with DWI despite not driving, it is vital that you seek out legal counsel as soon as possible to protect your interests. The attorneys of Gerald Miller could serve as your advocates throughout the course of your case.

Can You Be Charged When You Are Sleeping in Minneapolis?

Not only is it possible for you to be found guilty of DWI when you are not driving, but you could also even be convicted of the charge when you are asleep under the right circumstances. This scenario reached the Supreme Court of Minnesota in State vs. Fleck, and the justices determined that a conviction was valid.

In Fleck, the defendant was arrested for DWI after police discovered him asleep in his car. The police were notified of the defendant by a concerned neighbor, who asked that they perform a welfare check. When police investigated, they noted that the vehicle was off and the engine was cold. However, they also noted the keys to the vehicle were in the console of the car.

After investigating, the police determined the defendant was impaired by alcohol. Due to his position in the car and his possession of the keys, the police arrested him under suspicion of DWI. He was convicted at trial, and his case ultimately reached the Supreme Court of Minnesota. The court determined that the most important issue in these cases is the location of the accused as well as the keys to the vehicle. The fact that the defendant could have easily driven away in a moment’s notice was enough to meet the standard of being in physical control of the vehicle.

This decision was a deviation from what courts had previously considered to be physical control of a vehicle. Until 2010, lower courts largely held physical control to mean that a vehicle had been driven recently. The purpose of the statute in their eyes was to apply the law to someone who had recently driven while impaired, but no one witnessed the do so. This decision broadened what qualifies as DWI under the statute.

Other Defenses

If the state charges you with DWI even though you were not driving, it is the duty of the prosecution to prove that you were in actual physical control of the vehicle. However, the prosecution must also establish every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt in order to secure a conviction. Often, the state struggles to establish impairment in these cases.

There are many different ways to challenge impairment. If you did not submit to a chemical test, it is up to the state to prove through subjective evidence that you were impaired. This can be difficult, especially in situations where your story differs dramatically from the police report.

If you submitted a breath, blood, or urine test, you could potentially have the results of that test thrown out. There are guidelines that apply to collecting or testing these samples, and the failure of the state to follow them could render their results unreliable. Your attorney could seek to have those test results excluded from trial.

It can be a high burden for the state to prove that you were impaired—particularly if you did not submit to a chemical test following your arrest. The right DWI defense attorney could not only make the case that you were not in control of your vehicle, but also that you were not impaired at the time. If either of these defenses is successful, the court is obligated to acquit you of your DWI charges. Let the attorneys of Gerald Miller review your case and help you build the strongest defense strategy possible.

Talk to Gerald Miller About Your DWI Case in Minneapolis

If you were charged by the state with DWI despite not driving at the time of your arrest, the prosecutor must show you were in physical control of the vehicle. Depending on the circumstances, proving this could be difficult. Our firm could establish that the state failed to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is often possible to prevail in DWI cases where you were not driving. Before you consider a plea offer, it is in your best interest to discuss your options with legal counsel. The attorneys of Gerald Miller are ready to help you protect your legal rights during this difficult time. Reach out to us today for your free consultation.

Related Content: What Happens When You Get a DWI in Minneapolis?


About the author

Kyle Dreger

Kyle Dreger is a skilled DUI/DWI and Criminal Defense lawyer at Gerald Miller P.A. Kyle has received his law degree from the University of St. Thomas School of Law. He is also a professionally trained basketball player.

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