Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Law And Order: Future Crimes Division

Drunk driving is bad. Really, really bad. Okay, now that that's out of the way...

Minnesota's drunk driving laws are not exactly "freedom friendly" if they allow this sort of thing:

The Supreme Court of Minnesota on Thursday upheld the drunk driving conviction of a man caught asleep behind the wheel of a vehicle that would not start. At 11:30pm on June 11, 2007, police found Daryl Fleck sleeping in his own legally parked car in his apartment complex parking lot. The vehicle's engine was cold to the touch, indicating it had not been driven recently.
According to the Minnesota Supreme Court, drunk driving convictions don't rest on a person taking any action. They don't depend on a person intending to take an action. The mere possibility that a person could, at some indeterminate point in the future, operate a vehicle while intoxicated is all the police need.

In the 1992 case Minnesota v. Starfield, the court found a drunk passenger sitting in a vehicle stuck in a ditch guilty of DUI, but not because it could prove she really was the one who drove and caused the accident. Instead, the court ruled that "towing assistance [was] likely available" creating the theoretical possibility that the immobile vehicle could "easily" be made mobile. These defendants have been charged under an expanded definition that suggests having "dominion and control" with the mere potential to drive is a crime. Intending to sleep off a night of drinking treated as the same crime as attempting to drive home under this legal theory which does not take motive into account.
That's a slippery slope argument if I've ever heard one. The possibility that a drunk person can call a tow truck to pull a car out of a ditch is sufficient grounds to charge someone with a DWI? What if my I leave my car at the bar? Couldn't I still take a taxi back to the bar later? Is there ever a situation where a prosecutor couldn't make the argument that a person could potentially drive drunk and win under this law? Short of not owning a car, I mean?

In this country a person can't be charged with a crime they might commit. They can't be punished because they have the ability to commit a crime. Someday this law is going to get challenged and it's going to fall. Hard.


  1. You're right. It's a real slippery slope. But just wait, they will begin to apply that same logic to other "crimes."

    I picture an exchange between a police officer and motorist... "Yes, you were wearing your seatbelt but because you have the ability to unbuckle your seatbelt while simultaneously driving the vehicle, I'm giving you a $150 ticket". This could become a great money maker for the state!!! No more budget deficits...Whoo hoo!

  2. Well, when you give a Minnesota Viking a justice's robe, this is what happens ;)