Minnesota Wants You to Drink and Drive. Really!
Jenny was being responsible. She was at a bar here in the Twin Cities and she had too much to drink. She could tell. She knew it. Unfortunately, she had nobody to call to come pick her up and had no money to call a cab. Knowing that she was in no condition to drive, Jenny decided that her only option was to climb into the backseat of her car, throw her keys in her purse at her feet and sleep it off. Big mistake. She should have jumped in the driver’s seat and tried to make it home. At least, that is what the State of Minnesota thinks. Seriously.
In Minnesota courtrooms, it is called physical control. In other words, if somebody is under the influence of alcohol or drugs and in physical control of a car, they will be arrested for DWI. And physical control doesn’t mean driving down the street with a car. It can mean somebody like Jenny sleeping in the backseat of her car with the car keys in her purse on the floor. This would have been true even if her car were up on blocks. Or didn’t have an engine. It is crazy but true.
Look, DWIs are a serious problem in Minnesota and across the country. As a result, the legislature has become more and more aggressive at finding and prosecuting drunk drivers. They lowered the acceptable blood alcohol level, they increased the sentencing, they added a felony charge, and they put more cops on the streets.
Minnesota laws are designed to arrest as many people for DWI as possible. In a way, that makes complete sense. Drunks have killed and injured a lot of people. We all know that. However, what happens when the law actually motivates somebody to drive under the influence of alcohol rather than face almost certain arrest? Which takes us back to Jenny.
Within a matter of minutes Jenny heard a tap on the window. She woke up and looked into a flashlight. It was a police officer. She was subsequently arrested for DWI even though she explained that she had absolutely no intention of getting behind the wheel of a car.
As part of Minnesota’s aggressive approach to DWIs, police officers frequently wait around bars looking for people driving drunk. However, they also look for people sitting in cars, going nowhere, doing nothing. Sleeping. Because, that is the same thing. That is drunk driving.
So, the chance of Jenny getting caught sleeping in a bar parking lot was almost 100% whereas if she jumped into the driver’s seat, put her keys into the ignition and took her chances, she might have made it home.
Minnesota rightly should focus on getting as many drunks off of the road as possible. However, what Minnesota should not do is have laws on the books that actually encourage people under the influence to get behind the wheel and get out on our streets. The DWI physical control law does exactly that.
Does that make any sense?