A DWI in Minnesota


I'm finding out the hard way that many states have their DWI laws worded so that you can get in trouble even if you're just sleeping in your vehicle.  Not too long ago, I went to sleep in my vehicle after the bars closed.  Next thing I know, I was awakened by a local police officer, hauled down to the jail, and charged with a DWI.  I was shocked.  I was doing the right thing by not driving, but still I was being charged as if I were.

Minnesota Statute 169A.20 1(1) reads as follows:
It is a crime for any person to drive, operate, or be in physical control of any motor vehicle within this state or on any boundary water of this state when the person is under the influence of alcohol.

Looking through the statutes further (really boring stuff!), I found that they don't actually provide a definition for "physical control of a motor vehicle".  This means it has been left up to our courts to decide just what this phrase means.  Keys in the ignition and/or vehicle running most obviously fall under whatever definition has been decided by our courts.  But, in listening to some of the stories floating around, it sounds like they can get you if you're sleeping anywhere in your vehicle and your keys are also anywhere in that same vehicle.  When I have more time, I'll do some more digging into case histories to see just how far this is actually true and keep you posted on my findings.

The more I thought about things, the more I just got angry about the whole mess.  I was obeying the spirit and intent of the law by not driving drunk.  But I violated the letter of the law, and in doing so, I'm being charged with the same offense as the guy who stumbles out of the bar, hops in his vehicle drives off.  Something is just not right here!  To make matters worse in this case:  I was only six blocks from home!

I fully support DWI laws that keep people from driving.  I think this law as it is worded is also hurting a lot of innocent people who are trying to do the right thing by not driving.  This law needs to be changed.  If you agree, please contact your MN legislators and let them know how you feel.  Lets get this law changed before its one of your loved ones or friends facing this problem.  You can also make people aware of this problem by writing letters to your local newspapers.  (contacts coming soon)

For those of you who don't live in Minnesota and are amused by my predicament:  I've been checking DWI laws for other states.  Many states, but not all, also have similarly worded laws. I will also post my findings here when I do more research.