From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
In 2007, Daryl Fleck was drunk and asleep in his car with the driver’s door open in the assigned parking spot at his Crookston (MN) apartment building when someone called police. Officers found Fleck asleep in his car with no evidence he had been recently driving. He was convicted of drunken driving and sentenced to four years in prison. He appealed, but the state Court of Appeals affirmed his convictions, and now so has the state’s highest court.
Yes, the guy was drunk. He was parked in his assigned parking place at his apartment building, asleep in the driver’s seat with the driver’s door open (which is probably what attracted the attention in the first place), with the keys on the console. Someone saw him and called the police, who came and arrested him for Driving While Intoxicated.
Justice Alan Page wrote: “Mere presence in or about a vehicle is insufficient to show physical control; it is the overall situation that is determinative.” and a jury could reasonably determine that “Fleck, having been found intoxicated, alone, and sleeping behind the wheel of his own vehicle with the keys in the vehicle’s console, was in a position to exercise dominion or control over the vehicle and that he could, without too much difficulty, make the vehicle a source of danger.”
OK, so what’s a guy to do? (Besides not getting drunk.) If a person is drunk, and realizes it, he doesn’t dare fall asleep in the car any more, even if he removes the keys, probably even if he moves to the passenger seat or the rear seat. I understand that people have been arrested for DWI even in those circumstances. Maybe if he would take and heave the keys as far away as he could throw them, but then that would be pretty stupid, too. But if you don’t have the keys in your possession, or close at hand, then you can’t start the car and drive off, can you? It apparently has to do with intent, and the possibility of driving even if still intoxicated.
One commenter on this article said, “If I take a shower, could I get charged with public indecency beacuse I “could have” walked outside not wearing my clothes?” Another asks, “How far might they stretch “Physical Control”? If I am alone at my home with the keys in my pocket and the car in the driveway with a BAC of .08+ am I at risk for a DWI?” Yet another said, “By this theory, you’d also be guilty of murder if you had a gun in your possession.”
Now I don’t drink, so I’m not gonna get drunk and drive my car. And so this interpretation of Minnesota state law will probably never affect me.
But what has happened to common sense?