It seems logical that a crime called “driving while intoxicated” would require as one of its elements that a person be driving a motor vehicle. However, this is not the case. In Minnesota, you can get a DWI without driving. Under Minnesota law, a DWI can also occur if an intoxicated person “operates” or is “in control of” a motor vehicle. It is important to understand what these terms mean if you plan on drinking and being anywhere near a motor vehicle.
Generally, when it comes to determining whether a defendant was operating or in control of a motor vehicle, the most crucial question is whether the car was running. Minnesota courts have routinely found that when the keys are in the ignition of a vehicle, a person in or around that vehicle will almost automatically be deemed to be operating the vehicle under the meaning of the DWI statute. In one case, a defendant was convicted of a DWI even though they were 15-20 away from the vehicle when they are arrested. The keys were in the ignition, and the court determined that even at that distance the defendant was “in control” of the motor vehicle.
Even if the keys are not in the ignition, a defendant can still be found guilty of a DWI if they had the keys in their possession. The rationale for this rule is that if a person is in a vehicle with the keys, they are “in control” of it. The bottom line is that regardless of the reason a person enters a car, if they have the keys in their possession and they are intoxicated, they are at risk of getting a DWI in Minnesota.
If you have questions about this issue, or if you have been charged with DWI and would like to discuss your case, please contact us for more information.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please contact attorney Kirk Anderson for an initial consultation.