What does it mean to be “in physical control” of a motor vehicle? Can a drunk passenger be charged with driving while impaired or DWI? Can an intoxicated individual be charged with DWI if the keys are in the ignition even when the car is not running?
The answers to these questions may surprise you.
A 22-year-old Minnesota woman will soon make her appearance in court on two counts of felony criminal vehicular operation which occurred last April.
This sounds like any other DWI offense. The major factor which makes this DWI case different from the others, however, is the fact that the woman was not driving a car when the DWI arrest took place.
The police reports say that the woman spent the night with friends at a bar to celebrate her birthday and was drunk. She got in the front passenger seat of a sober friend’s car and headed home along with two other passengers in the back seat.
As the group was traveling down the interstate, she reached over and grabbed the steering wheel. This caused the vehicle to veer to the side and strike the median on a freeway on interstate 94. A state trooper noticed the suspicious driving behavior and pulled over the car.
Upon further questioning, one of the passengers at the rear seat as well as the driver told the officer that the intoxicated front-seat passenger jerked the steering wheel which caused the car to crash. According to reports, the officer smelled alcohol inside the car and on the woman in the front seat (who also had slurred speech). She admitted she was intoxicated but she was not driving.
The results of chemical tests revealed that the driver of the car registered a legal blood alcohol concentration level of 0.025 while the 22-year-old woman in the passengers seat had a BAC level of 0.21, more than twice the Minnesota’s .08 legal driving limit.
When the officer arrested her for driving while impaired after reading her the advisory about her rights, she pointed out that she was not driving. She then made a request to talk to a Minnesota DWI Lawyer but she didn’t make a call.
The intoxicated woman charged with DWI was told by the trooper that she was actually in physical control of the vehicle when she yanked the steering wheel which caused the car to crash.
What exactly is the definition of “Driving While Impaired” or DWI?
According to Minnesota DWI Law, a DWI offense applies to an individual who is operating, driving or in physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, a hazardous substance or a controlled substance; OR registers a blood alcohol concentration of over 0.08 as measured by a breath test, urine or blood test within two hours of being pulled over by an officer; OR has any amount of Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance detected in the individual’s system.
Operating, driving or in physical control of a motor vehicle means that any person driving, and/or that has access to the vehicle’s ignition key (even if the car is not running) can be charged with DWI. As long as a person is positioned near the keys and can reach them to turn the vehicle’s engine on, he/she can be considered as in physical control of the vehicle.
What to Do If You’re Charged with DWI in Minnesota
As you can see DWI law in Minnesota is very complex. If you happen to be charged with DWI in Minnesota, you should immediately contact an experienced and well-trained Minneapolis DWI Lawyer to defend your DWI case.
Douglas T. Kans, a respected Twin Cities Criminal Lawyer, is always ready to provide you with comprehensive legal services for the best possible resolution of your DWI/DUI case. You may contact Kans Law Firm, LLC at (952) 835-6314 for a free case review.