In Minnesota and in all US states, these issues of DWI all boil down to the physical control that the defendant has over the vehicle -- no matter where the vehicle ends up and no matter where the defenant might or might not go in the parked vehicle, the MN Supreme Court has held that if the police can reasonably determine that the defendant had control over the car and could have driven the car to the location and away from the location when he // she woke up. The latest case to review these issues and restate this law in Minnesota is the July 2010 case of State v. Fleck where a driver was found asleep in his motor vehicle in the parking lot of his apartment complex. When the police arrived, they found Mr. Fleck asleep behind the wheel of his vehicle with the driver's side door open and the ignition keys in the center console of the vehicle between the driver and passenger seats.
Most often in "physical control" cases, there is the assumption that, although the police did not see the actual driving conduct, it's clear that the individual actually drove to the location based on other circumstantial evidence. However, in Fleck, the officer's had determined that Mr. Fleck had not recently driven his motor vehicle because the car was "cold to the touch", the lights were not on, and it did not look as though the vehicle had been running. Despite the fact that he was on private property and it did not appear that Fleck had driven recently and he had no control over the keys, the Minnesota Supreme Court found that Mr. Fleck was in a position to exercise domain over his vehicle. In other words, without too much difficulty, the Court believed Mr. Fleck could have made his motor vehicle a source of danger on the roadways by awakening, in an intoxicated state, and then subsequently taking the keys from the console and starting the vehicle and driving off.
I truly wish I could tell you something diferently here but I can only tell you what the law is in the state where you live and it would be unprofessional of me to try to gloss over the truth of the matter in this case to try to put a positive spin on what happened to you. The botXXXXX XXXXXne here is that if you are in any way "in control" of the car you can be charged with DWI.
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I do appreciate your time and help, and I do understand everything you have told me. However I am still a bit confused how an officer without reason or suspicion of laws being broken, can he/she come onto the property. So I gues this response is more about the fact he had no reason at all for being there nor could he give me an answer on why he pulled up.
Hello again --
What generally happens is that the officer makes up a reason for "probable cause" to approach the vehicle. Legally speaking, a cop must have probable cause to enter a private property without a warrant and it must be under what appears to be (to the officer), at the time, exigent circumstances. So, the police officer can claim that he believed that the car was running with someone inside it (possible suicide or accidental death issue if the windows were closed) or he could claim that the lights to the car were on for more than a few minutes without reason. Those sorts of things will get the officer the right to enter the driveway without a warrant to investigate. So, I suspect that there is something in the report or, if questioned, he would rely on this type of story to justify entering the private property in the first place. Another way it can be done and justified by the police is if the driveway is visible from the public street and the car is visible from the street -- if someone is asleep behind the wheel and it can be seen from the public street by the police, they have the right to do a simple welfare check of the driver and any occupants of the car. If the car is not very visible from the street and the occupants not visible at all then the cop would need to claim the car was running or the headlight story or some such to go that far into the property as to be able to get to the car and see what is happening on the inside. The botXXXXX XXXXXne here is that there are sneaky police ways to pull you over or to get onto your private property and then when or if the matter goes to court, the court will generally believe the police officer.
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