On a late summer night in Minnesota, James Blue offered to give a ride in his luxury Bentley to Mack Motzo, the 20-year-old son of Minnesota Gophers hockey coach Bob Motzko, and Sam Schuneman, a 24-year-old graduate of the University of St. Thomas.
James had a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of approximately 0.20 (well over the legal limit) and had recently consumed marijuana gummies when he got behind the wheel.
James proceeded to drive nearly 100 miles per hour on a curvy road lined with trees. He lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a wooded area on the 3100 block of North Shore Drive in Orono.
James was ejected from the vehicle but survived the crash. Mack and Sam were not as fortunate.
In this article, we’ll take a look at drunk driving accidents in Minnesota, including what constitutes drunk driving and how accident victims and their families can recover damages after a drunk driving accident.
Driving while impaired (DWI) refers to an individual operating a motor vehicle while affected by alcohol or drugs (including marijuana and prescription medication).
There are 2 types of DWI charges in Minnesota: per se DWI and impairment DWI.
You can be charged with a DWI in Minnesota if the result of a breath or blood test shows any of the following:
You can also be charged with a DWI if you are “under the influence” of alcohol or drugs while operating a motor vehicle, even if you consumed less than the legal limit.
How does a court decide if a driver is “under the influence” of alcohol or drugs?
The court will look at all the evidence (erratic driving, slurred speech, poor performance on a field sobriety test, etc.) to determine whether the alcohol or drugs has affected the driver’s nervous system, brain, or muscles to the point that the driver could not operate their vehicle in the manner that a prudent and cautious person would.
The short answer is:
Both the United States and Minnesota Supreme Courts have determined that an officer does NOT need a warrant to require a person to provide a breath sample, but DOES need a warrant to require a person to provide a blood or urine sample.
Before an officer can require a breath test or obtain a warrant for a blood or urine test, the police officer must have probable cause to believe that a person has been driving while impaired.
Officers typically build probable cause by doing the following:
The penalty for refusing to take a sobriety test is 1 year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine and a license suspension in addition to the penalty you may receive if convicted of a DWI.
Minnesota’s open bottle law makes it a crime to have an open bottle of alcohol in your motor vehicle unless the open bottle is kept in the trunk of your vehicle or some other area that’s not occupied by passengers.
The open bottle law does not prohibit possession (or consumption) of alcoholic beverages by passengers in buses, limousines, motorboats, or pedal pubs.
The penalties for driving while impaired in Minnesota are harsh. Here are the penalties for a 1st-time offense:
|DWI penalties in Minnesota (1st offense)|
|Alcohol-concentration||Criminal penalties||Administrative sanctions|
|Under 0.16||90 days in jail and/or $1,000 fine||Driver has a choice of the following:
|Under 0.16 and child in the vehicle||1 year in jail and/or
|Driver has a choice of the following:
|0.16 or over||1 year in jail and/or
|0.16 or over and child in the vehicle||1 year in jail and/or
The penalties for driving while under the influence become increasingly more severe with each subsequent offense. For example, drivers with 4 or more offenses in 10 years can receive a prison sentence of 7 years, a $14,000 fine, and a permanent license revocation, among other penalties.
If you’re injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, you can file an insurance claim as you would in any other Minnesota car accident by following these steps:
You may need to file a personal injury lawsuit if your damages exceed the limits of the available insurance policies, or you may need to file a bad faith claim if the insurance company refuses to pay your claim.
Every state has a “dram shop law,” which holds business establishments that sell alcohol (restaurants, bars, theaters, etc.) legally responsible for serving intoxicated patrons who later cause an accident.
The term “dram shop” originates from the 18th century way of measuring alcohol. A “dram” is about ¾ of a teaspoon of alcohol. Establishments that sold alcohol were referred to as “dram shops.”
Minnesota’s dram shop law makes a person or establishment who illegally sells alcohol liable for any injuries or deaths that result from the illegal sale. A sale is considered illegal if:
The best way to avoid a drunk driving accident is to avoid a drunk driver.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has compiled some common signs of driving while under the influence to help you spot a drunk driver: