Driving while immobile

The Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the DWI conviction of a man sleeping in a parked car.
March 25, 2009

That Daryl Fleck , 55, may not have intended to drive when he was found sleeping drunk in the driver’s seat of his vehicle, parked in his home lot at 11:30 p.m. “is immaterial,” Judge Terri Stoneburner argued in a Minnesota Appeals Court decision that upheld Fleck’s drunk driving conviction. Under Minnesota’s Driving While Impaired statute, 169A.20, it is illegal for any person with a blood-alcohol concentration in excess of .08 to “drive, operate, or be in physical control of any motor vehicle.”
Stoneburner argues in accordance with State v. Starfield : “Physical control is meant to cover situations where an inebriated person is found in a parked vehicle that, without too much difficulty, might again be started and become a source of danger.” But “mere presence in or about the vehicle is not enough for physical control; it is the overall situation that is determinative.” Unfortunately for Fleck, the court found the keys situation determinative, but the slumber situation irrelevant. Stoneburner actually ruled a passed-out Fleck capable of starting a car “without too much difficulty.”
A sleeping drunk with no intent to drive or motion to constitute driving can now be charged under Minnesota’s Driving While Impaired statute. Make no mistake: This ruling holds that the potential to commit crime constitutes actual crime, and one is guilty until proven innocent. “There is no evidence his purpose for being in the vehicle was inconsistent with driving,” the opinion stated.
The Fleck case, like Starfield before it, is downright tyrannical law. Minnesota should increase DWI penalties before stretching enforceability beyond the reasonable meaning of language. Whether the keys are near them or not, a snoring drunk has no more control of a vehicle than he does with his dreams. Daryl Fleck now faces four years in prison for never actually posing a danger to his self or others.

Comment Policy

The Minnesota Daily welcomes thoughtful discussion on all of our stories, but please keep comments civil and on-topic. Read our full guidelines here.
Minnesota Daily Serving the University of Minnesota Community since 1900