In 2011, a Minnesota woman and her husband consumed alcohol at a cabin and got into a fight. According to MPR News, the husband hit the woman on the head twice before she was able to get into her vehicle and drive down the road to a resort. As a result of the incident, the man was arrested on domestic violence charges, and the woman was arrested for drunk driving with a blood alcohol concentration of twice the legal limit. The woman, who lost her license due to her conviction, took her case all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the court ruled against her.
The necessity defense
In court, the woman contested that she had to drive drunk because the consequences of not doing so would have been more severe than getting behind the wheel. This argument, called the necessity defense, may be used to defend drunk driving cases when there is an emergency situation. When successful, the result could be that a judge issues a less severe sentence or that the DUI charges are reduced to reckless driving, which does not automatically carry the penalty of losing a license.
In order to invoke such a defense, a court must allow it. In this case, the Minnesota Supreme Court decided the woman was not permitted to provide her reasoning for driving impaired due to the state’s implied consent law.
Under Minnesota’s implied consent law, both courts upheld that the woman was subject to losing her driver’s license as a result of her DUI conviction. According to state law, anyone who is arrested on drunk driving charges is required to submit either a urine, breath or blood test. The law also states the following:
- People suspected of driving while intoxicated consent to a preliminary breath test.
- Refusing to take a test is a crime that automatically results in at least a one-year license suspension.
- Drivers involved in accidents, in which someone was seriously injured or killed, do not have the right to refuse a test.
It is important to note that in Minnesota, there is not a mandatory penalty for people facing their first DWI offense. However, as was the case with this woman, drivers who have twice the legal limit of alcohol in their system automatically face a license suspension of one to two years. They will also have to use an ignition interlock system on their vehicles, which requires the driver to provide a breath sample of under 0.02 alcohol concentration before the vehicle will start.
Anyone with questions regarding the necessity defense or how the implied consent law works should consult with an attorney.