Although sleeping in your car in the parking lot of a bar after a night of drinking is a better choice than driving home, it still has the potential to result in charges for driving while impaired (DWI) in Minnesota and is a practice that should be avoided in order to eliminate the potential for DWI charges. In cases where a person is found passed out in their car after consuming alcohol, sometimes called “slumper” cases, prosecutors often argue that the person was still in physical control of the vehicle, and thereby force the defendant to fight the allegations in court. However, just because a person has been charged with such an offense does not mean they are guilty.

In Minnesota, a person can be convicted of a DWI offense if they drive, operate or are in physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. But what exactly constitutes physical control? Case law in Minnesota establishes that a number of different factors contribute to a determination of whether a person was in physical control of a motor vehicle, including the location of the keys, the location of the vehicle, and whether they entered the vehicle as a driver or a passenger.

Even where a vehicle is stuck in a ditch or snow bank, or has a flat tire, courts have still held that an intoxicated person was in physical control of the vehicle. However, they have also ruled the other way, finding, for example, that an intoxicated man who was found asleep in the front seat of his car in his driveway was not in physical control of the vehicle for purposes of the DWI statute.

The police and prosecutors obviously try to define the term physical control as broadly as possible while defense attorneys argue for a narrower interpretation of the physical control element in order to shield citizens from potential criminal conviction where the person really had no intent to drive and should not be held responsible for a crime they did not commit. If you feel that you were not in physical control of your vehicle but have been charged with a DWI anyways, hiring a criminal defense attorney is crucial in fighting the charges.

If you, or a loved one, are facing a criminal charge of any kind, contact The Law Office of John J. Leunig at 952-540-6800, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for a free consultation. The lawyers at The Law Office of John J. Leunig provide vigorous, intelligent and personalized representation to people accused of crimes in State and Federal courts.

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