Driving while impaired (DWI) (sometimes called “DUI”) is most often associated with driving under the influence of alcohol. But the law also prohibits “drugged driving”—that is, driving under the influence of drugs or hazardous substances.
This article discusses how Minnesota defines drugged driving and the consequences of a violation.
A Minnesota motorist can be convicted of a drug DWI for driving, operating, or being in physical control of a motor vehicle while:
A driver is considered “under the influence” if he or she doesn’t “possess that clearness of intellect and control” that he or she otherwise would. (Minn. Stat. Ann. § 169A.20 (2016); State v. Ards, 816 N.W.2d 679 (2012).)
Controlled substances. For purposes of Minnesota’s DWI laws, “controlled substance” means any substance listed in schedules I through V of the state’s Controlled Substances Act. The list is extensive and includes opiates, hallucinogens, depressants, narcotics, and marijuana.
Schedule I and II controlled substances. The list of controlled substance in schedules I and II—the subset of drugs that Minnesota law prohibits for drivers in any amount—contains substances such as:
Defendants who are charged for driving with a schedule I or II drug in their system have a defense if they can show that the drug was being used pursuant to a valid prescription. However, the defense doesn’t apply if the driver is charged for driving under the influence of the drug (as opposed to just having a concentration of the drug in the blood).
Marijuana. Marijuana is a schedule I controlled substance, but it’s excluded from the zero tolerance rule that applies to all other schedule I and II drugs. However, it’s still illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana.
Hazardous substances. “Hazardous substances” are defined by Minnesota’s Administrative Rules. The list includes some common household products, such as aerosol sprays and paint thinners, which can be inhaled (or huffed) to produce a high. Recently, a Minnesota court held that compressed gas from a can of “Dust-Off” (used to clean electronics) was a hazardous substance under the DWI statute.
(Minn. Stat. Ann. § § 152.02, 169A.03, 169A.20, 169A.46, 182.651 (2016); State v. Carson, 884 N.W.2d 917 (2016).)
A driver arrested for drugged driving in Minnesota will be charged with a DWI. The same DWI penalties that apply to drunk driving also apply to drugged driving. Likewise, a drugged driving incident is considered as a prior offense for future DWI sentencing.
HOW MUCH TIME WOULD YOU ACTUALLY SPEND IN JAIL?
Sentencing law is complex. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including credits for good in-custody behavior and jail-alternative work programs.
If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.
Minnesota DWI law is complex, and facts of every case are different. If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence, talk to an experienced DWI attorney in your area. A qualified DWI lawyer can tell you how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on the best course of action.