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You can get a DWI while sitting in a parked car

On Behalf of | Jun 14, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Nobody ever starts their evening out with the intent of getting a DWI. But good times with good friends sometimes result in having a few too many drinks.

When you reach your vehicle, you realize that you are too intoxicated to drive and decide to recline your seat so you can sleep it off and drive home when you’re sober. You may not realize you can still receive a DWI while sitting in a parked car, even if it’s not running.

Physical control

Minnesota DWI laws prohibit individuals from operating or being in control of a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs. While most people associate this with driving a car, “physical control” doesn’t require the vehicle to be moving. Instead, it means you have the capability to operate the vehicle, which is determined by the following factors:

  • Whether you are in the driver, passenger or back seat
  • If the keys are in the ignition, your hand or within reach
  • If the engine is running

Based on those criteria, you can be charged with a DWI if you are sleeping in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition. Another potential scenario is waiting for a ride in your vehicle with the engine on and the heater running to keep warm during a Minnesota winter.

A DWI’s legal consequences can be severe, including jail time and a $1,000 fine. But, a DWI goes beyond the judicial system. In addition to the social stigma, it could also increase insurance rates and possibly lead to the loss of your job.

If you’ve been out with friends, consider sleeping at one of their houses. Or, call for an Uber, Lyft or taxi and wait for them inside the bar. If you decide to wait in your vehicle, avoid sitting in the driver’s seat. Keep the keys out of the ignition and out of reach.