The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Beckman (decided April 27, 2020, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition (once again) that an inoperable vehicle does not preclude a guilty verdict for being in "physical control" while drunk.
In Beckman, the Defendant was charged with two counts of driving while impaired and two counts of carrying a pistol while under the influence of alcohol. The case went to trial where Mr. Beckman represented himself.
State Trooper Aaron Myren testified at trial that when he responded to a report of a stalled vehicle, he found a Ford Explorer with its only occupant, Beckman, slumped over in the driver’s seat. Trooper Myren knocked on the window. Beckman awoke, sat up, grasped the key in the ignition, turned the key to “initiate the power to the first stage of the ignition,” and slightly lowered his window. The trooper “was overwhelmed with a very strong odor of an alcoholic beverage.” Beckman told the trooper that he had been traveling from North Dakota toward Fergus Falls but that he could not remember where he was. Trooper Myren administered field sobriety tests, during which Beckman stumbled and struggled to follow directions. The trooper told Beckman that he was under arrest, and Beckman disclosed that he had one firearm on his person and one inside the car. Trooper Myren seized a semiautomatic handgun from Beckman’s jacket and another from a vest in the Explorer’s second row of seats. Then he took Beckman to the jail, read him the implied-consent advisory, and at 9:35 a.m., administered a breath test that revealed Beckman’s alcohol concentration of 0.08.
Beckman told the jury that he was driving home to Fergus Falls and ran out of gas. Beckman claimed that after running out of gas, he took two small bottles of whiskey out of his guitar case and drank them to "stay warm" on the inside. The jury did not buy his story and found him guilty of DWI and drunk possession of a firearm.
On appeal, Mr. Beckman claimed (among other things) that the evidence was insufficient to find him guilty of the DWI charge. The Minnesota Court of Appeals disagreed, stating:
"Beckman’s physical-control argument is unavailing. “[A] person is in physical control of a vehicle if he has the means to initiate any movement of that vehicle, and he is in close proximity to the operating controls of the vehicle.” State v. Fleck, 111 N.W.2d 233, 236 (Minn. 2010). Prohibiting intoxicated persons from exercising “physical control” of a car curbs situations where an intoxicated person might take some action to render a parked car a dangerous instrument. State v. Starfield, 481 N.W.2d 834, 837 (Minn. 1992)."
"The jury heard evidence that Beckman was seated inside his car on the highway after having driven from Fargo to where he had stopped near Fergus Falls. It also heard evidence that he sought assistance after having run out of gas both by walking to get help and by trying to flag down a passing car. Even if the jury credited his claim that he consumed whiskey while walking after the car ran out of gas (suggesting that he became intoxicated only after he was no longer actually driving), the evidence established that he was intoxicated from the time he got back into the car through the time the trooper awakened him. Given the possibility that someone might stop and help him refuel the car, he fits that category of drivers targeted by the “physical control” prohibition."
Moral Of The Story: Never, ever enter a motor vehicle while drunk UNLESS you are a passenger.
If you or a loved one have been charged with a Minnesota DWI, feel free to contact Minneapolis DWI Lawyer, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI and DUI questions.