How Easy It Is To Make A DWI Arrest

Posted On March 18, 2015 by Charles Ramsay

Hopefully I caught your attention with yesterday's post about the lesser-known but equally serious crime of driving while taking medication as prescribed (let's abbreviate that "DWP" for driving while prescribed).

As law-abiding drivers who take prescribed medication, driving is DWP, yet the natural assumption is that the likelihood of getting arrested under suspicion of driving while impaired, DWI, is low, so the risk of getting caught for DWP is remote.

Ignorance may be bliss, but it is no excuse, especially where the law is concerned. If you DWP, DWI law applies to you. When it comes to the revocation of your driver's license, a valid prescription is irrelevant once you've been arrested under suspicion of DWI.

How likely is it that you, DWP, will be affected by DWI law?

State v. Glover is one recent example of just how easy it is to find yourself arrested under suspicion of DWI in Minnesota:

In 2013, two days after Christmas, a police officer was stopped at a stoplight on an overpass above interstate highway 94 at 10:41 p.m. While stopped, he saw an oncoming car turn right and down the ramp onto the freeway. The officer thought that "the window tint on the vehicle was too dark,| so he followed the car onto I-94, and turned on his squad car lights to initiate a traffic stop. The officer approached the car to speak with the driver. A few minutes later the officer arrested the driver on suspicion of driving while impaired (DWI).

When the driver challenged the stop in court, the district court granted her motion to suppress the evidence obtained during the stop. The court held that the stop was not reasonable, in part because at 10:41 p.m. in December in Minnesota a minor difference in window tint |would be undetectable when viewed for a few seconds across the street while a vehicle is moving[,]| and a possible |slight window tint violation is not reasonable enough for the reasonable, articulable suspicion standard| for pulling someone over.

The State decided to appeal, and the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the district court's decision. According to the Court of Appeals, the officer's hunch that |the window tint on the vehicle was too dark| was enough to justify the stop; any evidence gathered by the officer during the stop is admissible. That leaves the driver with two options: appeal the decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court, or subject herself to a DWI trial. Both options are expensive and time-consuming, and the only alternative is to plead guilty and accept a conviction for DWI and a criminal record.

If this had been you, and you had been driving legally and flawlessly, but DWP, what would you do?

Coming up next: How do recent Minnesota court decisions in the DWI context affect DWP? How can law-abiding, unimpaired drivers who take medication as prescribed protect themselves?