Ignition Interlock and Physical Control in the News

25 Jan

The Minnesota Supreme Court and Governor Pawlenty have weighed-in recently on the state of DWI in Minnesota.  The Minnesota Supreme Court recently affirmed the conviction of a driver who was not actually driving his vehicle while impaired, but was in “close enough” proximity to his vehicle such that he could have, without too much trouble, awoken to operate the motor vehicle in his inebriated state.  http://www.startribune.com/local/82268187.html?elr=KArksLckD8EQDUUUnciaec8O7EyUsl; https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=169A.20.  Daryl Fleck was asleep in his car at his apartment complex, and passers-by contacted the police.  He was found to be intoxicated and thereafter arrested for (and convicted of) DWI.

The result is one that often confuses or enrages those not familiar with the DWI laws, but DWI practitioners know the story and consistent result all too well.  The basic idea is that the legislature and the courts do not wish to reward those persons who actually pull off on the side of the road and hide the keys after having drank too much by absolving them of the DWI laws.  There simply is a presumption made that the driver has the ability to operate the vehicle if he or she had the opportunity and/or conviction to do so.  About the only way out of the physical control argument is that the vehicle itself was inoperable, either due to extensive damage or, as happened in an actual Minnesota case, your friends remove the ignition coil from the car after throwing you in the back seat.

In related news, Minnesota’s governor took the opportunity to tout “Ignition Interlock” systems that require DWI offenders to prove their sobriety each time they drive – by breathing into a tube extending from their dashboard.  http://www.startribune.com/politics/state/82088442.html?elr=KArks:DCiUUUUr

He further advocated a reduction in the “aggravated” blood alcohol level from .20 to .15.  This would mean that a first-time DWI offender who had a blood alcohol content of .15 or above would be subjected to the Gross Misdemeanor penalties normally applicable to a second-time offender.

Those familiar with the ignition interlock systems insist that the devices reduce repeat offenses and are nearly impossible to bypass.  Privacy rights groups are concerned that the device stores too much personal information, such as a photograph of the person blowing into the instrument, and other information that would be shared with probation officers.  However, many repeat offenders would prefer to have the ignition interlock option available to them, rather than suffer through extremely long license revocation periods.

Entry by Ryan Wood. Ryan is an associate in the litigation section at Thomsen & Nybeck and practices in the areas of criminal law and general civil litigation.  Ryan has a wealth of varying experience in the field of criminal law as a prosecutor in multiple jurisdictions, and as a defense attorney handling adult, felony, white collar and juvenile matters.  He also has experience in complex civil litigation.  Ryan has directed cases through mediations, arbitrations, jury trials and the state and federal appellate courts, including oral argument, and has handled literally hundreds of court trials.  Ryan’s public service experience includes authoring materials for and lecturing at Continuing Legal Education and training seminars, serving as a law clerk to a Minnesota District Court judge and also serving as a staffer in the United States Senate.

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