Can You Get a DWI if You Aren’t Driving in Minnesota?

While DWI stands for “Driving While Intoxicated or Impaired”, an individual does not have to be actually driving to get charged with the offense in Minnesota. In fact, attempting to drive, sitting or sleeping in a vehicle with the engine running, or sitting in the driver’s seat with the car turned off while intoxicated can be enough to land a conviction for DWI.

DWI law in Minnesota states that it is a crime to “drive, operate or be in physical control” of a motor vehicle while alcohol-impaired or under the influence of drugs. An individual is considered to be impaired if he or she has a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher (0.04 percent for commercial vehicles), or has any amount of a Schedule I or Schedule II substance in their bloodstream.


The “physical control” portion of the law is what has made DWI cases in Minnesota so complex- often resulting in unfair convictions. A MN DWI lawyer, for example, might see a case where:

  • An intoxicated individual never planned to drive, but turned on the vehicle to use the heater or air conditioner while preparing to “sleep it off”, and was arrested. Although the defendant might argue that he or she had no intention of actually driving, proving that in court is a different story.
  • An alcohol-impaired individual sits behind the wheel with the keys to the vehicle on him or her. That person can be charged with driving while intoxicated.
  • A person who is intoxicated is standing near a vehicle while it is running and nobody else is nearby. He or she could be arrested and charged with DWI.

In Minnesota, the Department of Public Safety reports that 25,027 DWI arrests led to approximately 17,760 convictions in 2015 alone. At the time of the report, some cases were still pending, but it was expected that 85 percent of arrests would result in conviction. Many of these arrests and convictions were cases in which the defendant never drove at all. DWI arrests for non-drivers has become so common, in fact, that Minnesota police have begun referring to these suspects as “slumpers”.

A DWI conviction can result in significant fines, jail time, or both. To avoid being arrested for a DWI, it is recommended that impaired individuals avoid getting into a vehicle at all unless it is as a passenger.

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