Driving while intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DWI) is extremely dangerous, and the law accordingly imposes severe sanctions on those found guilty of such conduct. However, it is important to note that it is also possible to be charged with DWI even if you were not actually driving a car.

In Minnesota, it is unlawful for an individual to have physical control of a motor vehicle while also under the influence of intoxicants, a controlled substance, or alcohol, and the penalties for doing so can be severe. If you are facing a charge of this nature, it is wise to enlist the help of an attorney who fully grasps the law of physical control in Bloomington DWI cases.

Physical Control Laws

According to Minnesota Statutes §169A.20, it is illegal for anyone to drive or operate a vehicle with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher, and this prohibition also applies to individuals who have physical control over such a vehicle under the same level of intoxication. For example, someone who is not driving but is thought to have the imminent ability to cause a vehicle’s movement while drunk can be charged with a crime. This is true regardless of whether the defendant had any intent to operate the car.

There are a number of scenarios in which an individual could be arrested for this type of offense. For example, if someone enters their vehicle after a night of drinking, they may realize they are too impaired to drive and decides to fall asleep in the car until it is safe to proceed. Similarly, after being on the road for a period of time, a driver could come to the conclusion that their level of intoxication means that they need to pull over for their own safety and that of others.

Since the laws regarding the physical control of a motor vehicle is not well-articulated in the statutes, prosecutors assess the facts of the case using factors including:

  • Where the defendant’s keys were found
  • Where the defendant was situated at the time of the police stop
  • The identity of the vehicle’s owner
  • Whether the vehicle was operable at the time in question
  • How quickly the vehicle could have been made operable

In all such cases, the relevant analysis is fact-specific, and a local lawyer could work to craft the most persuasive arguments possible on the defendant’s behalf.

Possible Defenses to Driving While Intoxicated

While law enforcement officers can use their own discretion when it comes to arresting drivers for possibly driving under the influence, a vehicle stop is subject to constitutional scrutiny just like any other type of search and seizure. An experienced DWI lawyer in the area could examine the facts of each case to determine if the initial stop that gave rise to an arrest was legally valid and based on reasonable suspicion.

A skilled defense attorney could also explore the possibility of attacking the validity and accuracy of field sobriety testing based on problems with the administration methods used, a driver’s preexisting health concerns, faulty equipment, and more. If successful, it may even be possible to pursue a reduction or an outright dismissal of charges.

How a Bloomington DWI Attorney Could Help

The long-term effects of a DWI conviction are often damaging and can include financial harm, job loss, familial strife, and professional sanctions. For repeat offenders, there is usually even more at stake. If you have been charged with an offense of this nature, it may be beneficial to enlist the help of an attorney who understands the law of physical control in Bloomington DWI cases. Call today to schedule an initial consultation.