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UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See prorev.com for full contents of our site

January 30, 2010

COURT RULES SITTING IN UNDRIVEN - AND PERHAPS UNDRIVABLE - CAR TO BE DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE

Don't Tase Me Bro ' - The Supreme Court of Minnesota upheld the drunk driving conviction of a man caught asleep behind the wheel of a vehicle that would not start. At 11:30 pm on June 11, 2007, police found Daryl Fleck sleeping in his own legally parked car in his apartment complex parking lot. The vehicle's engine was cold to the touch, indicating it had not been driven recently. The keys were in the center console, not the ignition. Fleck admitted to having consumed around a dozen beers that night. Officers at the scene arrested him, and his blood alcohol level was found to be .18. A few weeks after Fleck's vehicle was impounded, a police officer tested the vehicle using the keys found in the car's center console.

"Although the key turned in the ignition, the vehicle would not start," Justice Alan C. Page explained in the unanimous decision.

Laws covering driving under the influence of alcohol have evolved over the years to cover the situations where police find a parked, but recently driven, vehicle with a drunk behind the wheel. In the 1992 case Minnesota v. Starfield, the court found a drunk passenger sitting in a vehicle stuck in a ditch guilty of DUI, but not because it could prove she really was the one who drove and caused the accident. Instead, the court ruled that "towing assistance [was] likely available" creating the theoretical possibility that the immobile vehicle could "easily" be made mobile. These defendants have been charged under an expanded definition that suggests having "dominion and control" with the mere potential to drive is a crime. Intending to sleep off a night of drinking treated as the same crime as attempting to drive home under this legal theory which does not take motive into account.

As Fleck was an unsympathetic figure with multiple DUI convictions in his past, prosecutors had no problem convincing a jury to convict. The court took up Fleck's case to expand the precedent to cover the case of mere presence in an undriven -- and perhaps undrivable -- car into the definition of drunk driving. The court relied on Fleck's drunken claim that his car was operable to set aside the physical evidence to the contrary.


2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You were, perhaps, expecting the law to be logical and fair? The law is the fist of the state, and its enforcers act to remind the powerless of the futility of protest.

January 30, 2010 2:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And let's not forget the revenue! All the lawyers and the court itself need business and justification.

January 30, 2010 9:58 PM  

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