First DWI arrest recorded this date in 1897

Historians say that 116 years ago today the first drunk driving arrest was made in England. A cabbie was charged with driving under the influence after allegedly crashing his electric powered cab into a building in 1897. Since that time, many people have been accused of driving while impaired. Individual states here in the U.S. began passing DWI laws after the turn of the last century as cars gained in popularity.

After prohibition was repealed in the 30s, DWI laws became more prominent, but proof of the crime was generally based solely upon an officer’s observations. That concept continues today in Minnesota DWI cases. Most people accused of a regular DWI offense in Minnesota actually face two counts, one under the chemical test theory based upon evidence of a blood alcohol reading of 0.08 percent or more. The second count is generally under the more common law theory, which is based upon law enforcement’s suspicions of impairment.

Field sobriety tests, admissions during a traffic stop, alleged observations of driving conduct and of the driver during a routine traffic stop (including so-called watery eyes, smells of alcohol or other descriptions from the arresting officer), may all be a part of the prosecution’s case.

In 1936, a professor at a Midwest university developed the idea to use a balloon during a drunk driving stop to capture a breath sample from the driver. He called the idea a “Drunkometer,” according to Health Central. The contents of the balloon were then released into a tube with chemicals, and the speed with which the colors changed inside the tube (from purple to yellow) were supposedly related to how drunk the driver was at the time. It was the science of the time. The Health Central article account indicates that as the color changed, the test would often coerce the driver into confessing to drunk driving.

Have times changed?

Maybe somewhat. Many chemical testing systems exist, with varying levels of scientific acceptance and reliability. But, anyone who has ever driven a car may know that cars break down. Computers burp. People make mistakes. Margins of error are also troubling to DWI defense lawyers.

While lobbyists continue to seek more expansive and punitive DWI laws in every state of the union, criminal defense lawyers seek to uphold constitutional principles that protect our free society. It is not enough in court that a person has merely been accused of a crime. The prosecutor has a heavy burden to prove the offense. And improper procedures, or mistakes in gathering and-or processing evidence defy the concepts of justice.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Knowing how to choose a criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis, MN, can help you hire a lawyer who will prepare an effective defense strategy and fight for the best result from your case. One of the crucial tips when selecting a criminal defense lawyer is to vet those with relevant experience in cases like yours. You can only do this when you thoroughly understand the charges you are facing.
People anticipating an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, might ask, “What is the role of a defense attorney during an arrest?” A skilled criminal defense attorney can explain your options, ensure the police follow the rules, and protect your rights. The attorney will build a solid defense, talk to the prosecutor, and fight for your best interests.
Knowing when to hire a criminal lawyer for your case in Minnesota can help protect your constitutional rights and turn the odds in your favor. You should retain a criminal lawyer immediately after learning you are under investigation, get arrested, or are charged with a crime. Seasoned criminal lawyers understand the criminal justice system, can build a winning defense strategy, and aggressively push for a positive outcome of your case.