DWI Upheld in Case of Car that Wouldn’t Start

by dave on February 9, 2010

in Drug Charges

The Minnesota Supreme Court recently upheld a DWI conviction where the car wouldn’t start, and there was no evidence that the person had driven the car at all.

The defendant in this case was parked legally at his apartment complex, the keys were on the console, not in the ignition, and the car was cold, with no evidence that it had been recently driven.

What is not in dispute is that the defendant was drunk, and asleep in the car when the police found and arrested him.

When the police arrived, they put the keys in the ignition and attempted to start the car, but it would not turn over.

In a typical drunk driving case, the prosecution must only prove that the alleged drunk driver was in physical control of a vehicle while impaired. Having “dominion and control” over a vehicle, and the potential to driving while impaired is enough evidence to convict. So, just having your keys in the ignition, and being seated in the driver’s seat while intoxicated or impaired is enough evidence under the law for a DWI conviction in Minnesota, and most states.

But we don’t even have that much in this case. We have a person without the keys in the ignition, with no evidence the car had recently been driving, and some evidence the car may not have even been drivable at all, but it still added up to a guilty verdict and DWI conviction from the jury. Tough crowd.

The court upholding the verdict upon appeal suggested that the jury “could reasonable have determined” that the defendant did drive the car to that location while impaired by alcohol. Presumably they would have to have believed that the car did work prior to the police attempting to start it.

Reading the facts, it seems like there was plenty of reasonable doubt to be found, but the jury didn’t see it that way. If he was an unsympathetic character as reported, that may have strongly worked against him.

Further reading at The Newspaper.

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