Sleeping Drunk in a Car Can Get You a DWI in Minnesota

We have all been there. You are at a party or go out for a “couple of drinks” with friends. When it comes time to hit the road, you realize you are in no condition to drive. Many of us, in this instance, would call a taxi, Uber or a friend for a ride home. But, maybe you have work the next day and are afraid you won’t be able to get a ride back to your car in the morning.

Seems reasonable to just sleep it off in your car. This way, you save taxi fare, don’t have to bother a friend for a late night ride, and you won’t need to worry about a ride back to the bar in the morning. Again, seems reasonable, right?

It might seem like a smart thing to do, but are you aware that if you are found sleeping in your vehicle and are also legally intoxicated, you can find yourself charged with a DWI?

That’s right. Even though you are not operating the vehicle, Minnesota law states that you are guilty of driving while intoxicated (a BAC of .08). Let’s take a closer look at how this can occur.

Minnesota DWI law states:

“(1) to drive, operate, or be in physical control of any motor vehicle anywhere in the state while:

  • under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or a hazardous substance (knowingly), or any combination of these;
  • having an alcohol concentration (AC) of .08 or more at the time or within two hours of doing so;
  • having any amount or the metabolites of a schedule I or II controlled substance, other than marijuana, in the body; or
  • if the vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle, having an AC of .04 or more at the time or within two hours of doing so; or (2) to refuse to submit to a chemical test of the person’s blood, breath, or urine under Minnesota”

Here’s where the problem comes into play – “be in physical control”. This is how you get the DWI charge even though you were sleeping. If you are in the vicinity of the vehicle or its controls, in a position where it would be easy for you to operate the vehicle, then you are considered in control of that vehicle. The vehicle can be a powered boat, off road vehicle, snowmobile or motorcycle, even a riding lawn mower.

DWIs come with criminal and administrative charges. The first offense for someone with a BAC of .16 or less is usually 90 days in jail and a $1000 fine.

In 2007, there was a case where a man was found guilty of DWI after being found asleep in his car at his home. His BAC was .18. The man was found with the driver door open, the keys were not in the ignition and police could find no evidence he had recently driven the car or any car. In other words,he was not operating the vehicle when the police arrived. The really crazy part of this is that when the police attempted to start the car, it would not start.

The man was still found guilty of a DWI and the conviction has been upheld through numerous appeals all the way to the Supreme Court.

You also need to be aware that refusing to take a breathalyzer test can result in criminal charges in Minnesota. The Supreme Court just reviewed this practice and concluded that Minnesota could press criminal charges against someone if they refused a breathalyzer at the time of the traffic stop. If found guilty of refusing the test, you could face a year in jail and a $3000 fine. This is in addition to any penalties incurred from other charges.

If you find yourself facing DWI charges and related offenses contact our offices to discover how Mr. Peterson can help you. Mr. Peterson is well-versed in both criminal law and DWI proceedings. Don’t delay, the sooner you start planning your defense, the better the chances of a positive outcome.