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DWI When Not Driving

Can You Be Charged with a DWI if You're Not Driving? As crazy as it seems, Yes.

Minnesota's DWI Law - Twin Cities DWI / DUI Defense Lawyer

At first glance, Minnesota's DWI Law seems fairly straighforward:

Minnesota's DWI law stipulates that it is a crime:

  • to drive, operate, or be in control of any motor vehicle anywhere in the state while:
    • under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or (knowingly) a hazardous substance, 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 alcohol concentration of .04 or more at the time or within two hours of doing so; or
  • to refuse to submit to a chemical test of the person's blood, breath, or urine under Minnesota Statutes, section 169A.52 (implied consent law).

However, there is a lot of information packed into those first 7 words: "To drive, operate or be in control". Most people know that DWI stands for Driving While Intoxicated, and DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence. What most people do NOT know is that you do not even have to be driving to be charged. That string of words: "operate or be in control of" has been intepretted fairly widely by Minnesota courts to include:

  • Someone who has fallen asleep in their car (the car does NOT need to be running, the keys do NOT have to be in the ignition)
  • Someone who is standing in their garage with the car running
  • Someone who is using their car's radio while under the influence

In 2010, the Minnesota Supreme Court unanimously upheld a ruling from a lower court where a man was arrested in 2007 for sleeping in his car confirming the fact that the "D" in DWI doesn't really need to be present for you to be arrested. You simply need to be in a position where you are considered to be "in control" of the car.

I was once asked if standing in a garage drinking beer leaning against your car with your keys in your pocket would potential lead to a DWI arrest. While it seems improbable, the best answer I can give is "I hope not" as it could technically be construed as control of the vehicle.

While "don't drink and drive" is very common knowldege, I would advise the people think of an expanded rule: "don't drink and be anywhere near, and certainly not inside of, a vehicle that you have control of".

If you have been arrested for DWI and you were not driving at the time, we may be able to develop a strong defense on your behalf. Contact me today for a free initial consultation.

DWI not driving the car