Physical control or how to get a DWI without driving in Minnesota

While many Minnesotans might believe that they cannot be charged with driving while impaired unless they are stopped while their vehicles are moving, the law says otherwise. In Minnesota, it is possible to be arrested and charged with a DWI even while the vehicle is stopped and the car is turned off under certain circumstances.

Minnesota Statutes § 169A.20, subdivision 1 and physical control

Under Minnesota Statutes § 169A.20, subdivision 1, you can be charged with driving while impaired if you are driving, operating or are in physical control of the motor vehicle while you are under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances or substances that affect your nervous system and your ability to drive. Before 2010 and the Supreme Court of Minnesota’s decision in State v. Fleck, physical control had been defined by the lower courts as including situations in which officers could point to evidence that the car was either in operation or recently had been in operation. The Fleck decision changed that calculus, however.

State v. Fleck and the definition of physical control

In State v. Fleck, a man was charged with felony driving while impaired after a concerned neighbor called the police asking for a wellness check on the man. He was sleeping in the driver’s seat of his car with his door open. His vehicle’s lights were off and the engine was cold. The police determined that the car had not recently been running, but his keys were in the console of his car. Because of his position in the vehicle and the location of the keys, he was charged with the felony DWI. At trial, he was convicted. On appeal, the appellate court overturned his conviction, but the Minnesota Supreme Court overruled the appellate court, finding that because it was possible that the man could start his vehicle and could drive it away, there was sufficient evidence that he was in physical control of his vehicle.

If you are facing charges of driving while impaired even though your vehicle was not running at the time, you likely need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands how to defend against DWI allegations. To learn more about your rights and how we can help you, call the Anderson Law Firm today.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please contact attorney Kirk Anderson for an initial consultation.