If you’ve been arrested and charged with a drunk driving offense in Minnesota, there can be a lot of confusion surrounding the event. Though most people vaguely understand these concepts, few fully grasp sometimes-significant details. Thankfully, this lack of awareness comes from the fact that most people so rarely interact with the criminal justice system. Keep reading to find out more about some key drunk driving terminology.
What is BAC?
First things first, let’s define one of the most commonly used phrases when dealing with drunk driving charges: BAC. BAC stands for “blood alcohol concentration” and is a method used to determine how much alcohol is present in a person’s bloodstream. BAC is expressed as a percentage and measured in milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. In Minnesota (and every other state in the country), the legal limit is 0.08 percent BAC.
What is a DUI/DWI?
It’s a question that puzzles many people, “Are DUIs and DWIs different?” In some states yes, there are legal differences in the two offenses. However, in most states, like here in Minnesota, the two are one in the same. Driving while impaired and driving under the influence are two phrases used to describe the same set of facts and are used interchangeably. So what does it take to get a DUI/DWI?
In Minnesota, a person is guilty of driving while impaired when he or she is found to be in physical control of a vehicle while either under the influence of alcohol or a hazardous substance (meaning drugs). The law says that you can also be found guilty of DWI if you are found in physical control of a vehicle while you have any amount of a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance in your bloodstream. More commonly, Minnesota drivers are charged with DWI if they are found driving with a blood alcohol concentration in excess of the state’s legal limit (0.08 percent).
What does it mean to be in “physical control” of a motor vehicle?
One of the strange legal phrases associated with drunk driving offenses in Minnesota is that a driver must be found either driving, operating or “physically controlling” a vehicle. So what exactly does this mean? It means that drivers in Minnesota can be charged with a DWI even if they were not driving at the time of the arrest. While that may come as a shock to many, it happens routinely. Cases have shown that judges will allow prosecution in situations where a driver had access to the keys and was therefore able to start the vehicle. That means if you are discovered drunk with the keys in your lap in the driver’s side seat, never having driven for a moment, you could still be charged with DWI given your “physical control” of the motor vehicle.
What’s a motor vehicle?
Now that we know what it takes to qualify as physical control, an easier question would seem to be what amounts to a motor vehicle? In Minnesota, the law is clear that DWI regulations apply to those operating a mode of transportation with a sufficiently powerful motor. Cars trucks, commercial work vehicles, boats (though not canoes), ATVs and even snowmobiles count. However, several recent court decisions have made clear that Segways, which are deemed more of a pedestrian tool, do not qualify as motor vehicles. Bikes are also free and clear given that they are powered by human exertion and not machinery. Previous rulings have also found that very low power scooters do not count as motor vehicles under Minnesota law.
Ask a Minneapolis, MN DUI Attorney to inform you of your rights
As stated, when an individual is arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, they are literally thrown into a system full of new terminology and potential pitfalls around every corner. Also, not only will you be dealing with criminal sanctions, but also the legal maze associated with the DWI civil license hearing. Therefore, it is extremely important to consult with an experienced and respected DWI lawyer to explain the process and the best approach to defend your rights.