In yet another stupid decision, the Minnesota Court of Appeals has once again confirmed that DWIs are the actual worst crime possible. In fact, they are so horrible, the state is allowed to punish you EVEN IF YOU DIDN'T COMMIT A DWI. That's according to Dornbush v. Commissioner of Public Safety.
Let's review pertinent info before discussing the details of the case. In MN, there are differing ways to commit a DWI. One of those is being under the influence of a controlled substance. Even if it's legal, like Vicodin that your doctor prescribed, if it makes you too loopy to drive, you can get a DWI. Another way to get a DWI is by having any amount of a schedule 1 or 2 drug in your system, regardless of whether it affects your ability to drive. Just the presence of that drug in your system is enough to convict you of a DWI. Schedule 1 drugs are illegal drugs: cocaine, heroin, meth, etc. Schedule 2 drugs are legal, but considered by the medical community yo be highly addictive & have a high chance of being abused. This includes drugs like Adderall & morphine, etc. So, under this type of DWI, I am committing a DWI every time I drive, bc I take Adderall for my hyoersomnia. The fact that it actually makes me a better, safer driver (because I'm not going to fall asleep at the wheel) doesn't necessarily matter since the law requires only that the drug be in your system.
However, there is a defense available to that particular type of DWI, if you are legally prescribed the drug that is in your system. If so, then you are not guilty of a DWI just for having the drug in your system. Good news for those of us who need to take Schedule 2 medication and still be able to drive.
Also important to know is that the Department of Public Safety will revoke your license if you have a positive test for drugs or alcohol after a DWI arrest. That will happen before the criminal case is settled. It happens fast.
So, in the Dornbush case, the defendant was pulled over for a DWI & charged w/ having any amount of a schedule 1 or 2 in his system. He got his license taken away by the Department of Public Safety, as is the normal course of business with DWI cases. He eventually was able to show that the defense of taking the drug pursuant to a doctor's orders applied to him & the criminal case went away. Then he goes to the Department of Public Safety & says, "Hey, look, I shouldn't have had my license taken away, bc I didn't actually break the law. I was taking the medication as my doctor instructed, which means I didn't commit a DWI. So, can I have my license back please?" To which the Department of Public Safety responded, "No, you cannot have it back."
So, he appealed the decision to revoke his license. The license revocation is supposed to be an administrative penalty for having broken the law. Since he didn't break the law, he shouldn't be punished. Makes sense, right?
Well, no, not according to the MN Court of Appeals. They agreed with the Department of Public Safety, that he could not get his license back. Why? Because the defense that you are taking medication as prescribed by your doctor only applies to the criminal charge, not to the license revocation since that's considered a civil matter. Since the legislature didn't include it as a defense for the administrative revocation penalty, it doesn't apply. Sucks to be you, defendant who didn't actually commit any crime, because you're going to be treated the same as if you did!
The Court talked a lot about how this was an administrative penalty & that the license revocation proceedings are separate from the criminal stuff so the defense can't possibly apply unless the statute were to specifically include it as a defense to having your license revoked. But this argument/line of reasoning falls flat on its face. In Minnesota, if you have a prior DWI conviction or drug or alcohol related loss of license on your driving record, drug or alcohol related loss of license on your driving record, and you get charged w/ a DWI, it automatically jumps from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor, because you're a "repeat offender" who needs to be punished more severely than a first-timer. Did you catch that? It's a conviction or losing your license for drugs or alcohol.
Which means that Dornbush, who has not committed any crime under the law, will be considered a repeat offender if he ever actually does get a DWI. He will be looking at more serious consequences that are reserved for people who have already had one DWI in the past & who apparently didn't get it the first time. He will be subject to forfeiture of his car & impoundment of his license plates. And he'll be required to do jail time that is reserved for repeat drunk drivers, despite not ever having been convicted of a prior DWI!
The Draconian ruling in this opinion kills me. The Court once again doesn't seem to care if DWI laws result in unfair or absurd outcomes or if we end up punishing people for crimes they didn't commit. As long as we can punish people, guilty or not!, for DWIs, that's all that matters. The Court completely ignored the issue with the loss of license causing the person to be facing more serious charges despite never having been convicted & having a valid medical defense.
Given that I take Adderall as prescribed every day, I find this ruling more than just a bit troubling. I'm now terrified that I could lose my license if I'm ever pulled over. It's so stupid & nonsensical it makes my brain hurt. I don't understand how they reach their decision, because this one makes no sense. It's actually now punishing people who haven't committed a crime.
Punishing. People. Who. Have. Not. Committed. A. Crime.
Just let that sink in for a bit.