Can you really get a DUI without driving?

March 24, 2010

As we already know, Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a criminal offense in Pennsylvania and Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is a serious traffic offense in New Jersey. In the state of Minnesota a DUI conviction was issued against a man who was not driving. Although he appealed the lower court's ruling, the Supreme Court of Minnesota upheld the DUI conviction.

Daryl Fleck of Minnesota was found by a neighbor to be asleep in his car with the driver's side door open. Mr. Fleck's car sat legally parked in the parking lot of his apartment building. The police who responded to the neighbor's call found that Fleck's car was not running and that the engine was cold. Furthermore, the keys were absent from the ignition and instead were found inside the center console.

Fleck, however, was proven to be intoxicated as his blood-alcohol level was .18 (Minnesota's legal blood-alcohol limit is .08). He also had a history of prior DUI convictions. Yet, there was no proof that he had driven on this given evening in 2007. It appeared only that he was "sleeping off" a night of drinking that had taken place in his home. Still, for this offense he received a felony conviction for DUI which landed him in jail for 48 months and required him to serve five years of probation.

Mr. Fleck appealed the court's decision all the way up to the Minnesota Supreme Court. The conviction was upheld by the high court, based upon a ruling from 1992 which applied the concept of "physical control", meaning that a person's ability to drive may be greatly affected but they still have control of the vehicle. The Court found Fleck to be in control of the vehicle because he was in a position to start up the engine and drive the car since the vehicle and keys were available to him. Intent to drive (or not drive) did not come into play, even though police were unable to get Fleck's car to start.

Pennsylvania DUI law also incorporates "physical control" language into its DUI statutes: "An individual may not drive, operate or be in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle after imbibing a sufficient amount of alcohol such that the individual is rendered incapable of safely driving, operating or being in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle." (PA code section 3802)

To some, a DUI conviction based upon the assumption that because car keys are available to a drunk person they are going to use them is absurd. In cases such as these, where a person takes shelter in his car and refrains from driving, does it seem the person was acting more responsibly than irresponsibly? With news of convictions such as Mr. Fleck's, people may just opt to drive if they know there is a chance they will be charged with DUI anyway for "waiting it out" in their car. How does that keep us any safer?

If you are facing a Bucks County, PA DUI charge of any sort, contact a lawyer with a vast amount of experience in Pennsylvania DUI matters. Call Michael L. Saile, Jr. for a free, in-office consultation.


Anonymous,  March 25, 2010 at 11:19 AM  

wasnt there a case in nj, where the guy even had the car running for heat, cause it was in winter, drunk, and won in court? i think even one of my former attorneys had this case, maybe.

what if this guy in minnesota was lying in the back seat, was it still a dui?

what about lying on his bed in his home, .... access to his keys and car, .... is this dui too?

if you are drunk at home, aceess to your keys, car in garage,..
is this not control of the vehicle as well,..

the police, maybe the neighbors, wanted to get this guy, and they got him,..... that much is clear.

however, the court i think did the wrong thing,...

tiger woods last year, ..... could have went into his suv, and slept there, ..after getting into the arfguement with his wife, was that dui?
but he didnt sleep there, he started his suv, drove down the driveway and crashed on a public roadway,

was this dui, no.

even though his wife said he was drinking and popping pills all day, and handed the rescue working the 2 bottles of pills so they knew exactly what he was taking....

where is the felony arrest and conviction, or dui traffic violation?

i want equal protection, equal rights, equal treatment under the law,

the police shgould have woken the guy up, and escorted him into his home, .. or taken him to the hospital for a drunk tank type thing,...

48 months in jail, .... for deciding not to drive drunk, ..... thats a bit harsh,....

its beyond harsh, its insane.


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