You Can Get A DUI Without Driving Your Car

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It seems like it could be a storyline out Steven Spielberg’s 2002 movie, Minority Report: a Minnesota man was convicted of a DUI offense in a car that wasn’t moving. What’s even more surprising: the car wouldn’t start at all.

As it turns out, getting a bit tipsy and stumbling out of the house to sleep it off in the car may make you a felon. It happened to Daryl Fleck.

That he’d consumed about twelve beers is not in dispute. His felony conviction for drunk driving, even though his car was not running and legally parked, has earned him 48 months in custody and five years of probation.

It started one night in 2007, when when a neighbor at Fleck’s apartment complex alerted police, they found him sleeping in his car, with the driver’s side door still open.

Appealed all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court, Fleck’s conviction was ultimately upheld, though not without testing the elasticity of interpretation. Fleck obviously shares a fondness for beer with many Americans, though his prior DUI offenses did not win friends on the jury.

In this instance, the keys to the car were in the center console, far from the ignition. The engine was cold, and Fleck hadn’t even been listening to the radio. Officers determined Fleck’s blood-alcohol level was .18, which may be more to blame for the conflicting reasons he gave to police when asked why he was at the car than any attempt at deceit.

Minnesota’s legal blood-alcohol limit is .08, and Fleck’s results were more than double that. Were he cruising sloppily past a sobriety checkpoint, the case would have been an unchallenged open-and-shut matter.

Instead, prior cases that convicted citizens of DUI on the grounds of an expanded interpretation of “physical control” were used as precedents.

For example, in a prior case, the meaning of “physical control” was stretched to include the possibility that a vehicle available to an intoxicated person could easily be pressed into service, irrespective of intent. Again, that would be a more straightforward precedent but for the fact that an officer’s attempt to start Fleck’s impounded car revealed that it wouldn’t run.

Despite the apparent incongruity with reason, Fleck’s conviction was upheld by the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Has a menace been removed from the roads — and society, for that matter?

No doubt, someone with prior DUI convictions isn’t doing the public a service. Fleck shouldn’t have been near the car in his condition.

We only shudder to think of how far the notion of “physical control” extends before someone else decides the fate of the rest of our automotive experiences.

Stashi is an Editor at Driver Pulse, a provider of online automotive editorial reviews and latest news throughout the automotive industry. From the sight of sleek curves to the sound of a roaring engine, old and new, she has a great love for vehicles of all makes and models. What she finds most exciting is that automakers of iconic muscle cars from the past, such as Ford and Chevrolet, are reproducing them for this generation of gearheads. Her dream car, the 1964 or 1966 Ford Mustang, is the ultimate American pony car and paved the way for her love of growling and rumbling engines of old school muscle cars. She spent her whole life in the Midwest and still finds herself playing the same game she once played with her father when she was a young girl. It’s a game her father liked to call “Name that make and model”. This game has become more challenging as the years pass making it a great way to pass the time on long road trips. She believes that automobiles, old and new, are an art form that can be enjoyed by both children and adults.

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