Minnesota DWI laws make it a crime to drive a motor vehicle when a “person’s body contains any amount of a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or II, or its metabolite….” Since many prescription drugs are listed in Schedule I or Schedule II of Controlled Substances, this means that many drivers violate the law each day, even while strictly following doctors’ orders.
Nationally renowned attorney, Justin McShane, reminded us about the absurdity of this type of law in a blog post, DUI Arrests Purposely Targeting Innocent People. Noting that the Pennsylvania laws “target” innocent people, McShane wrote:
You may be surprised to learn that some DUI laws in Pennsylvania specifically target innocent people. Yes, even if you haven’t had a sip of alcohol or abused any illicit drugs, you can still be arrested for DUI and charged with a DUI equivalent to those with [illegal] blood alcohol levels. Even for a “first offender” this can mean … months in prison, … fines and a … license suspension.
Welcome to the upside down world of DUI-prescription drugs.
…[Y]ou can be arrested and even convicted of a DUI for taking certain common medications which include pain killers, allergy medications and even certain types of cough syrup. The government can even try to prosecute you even if you are taking them while following a valid prescription.
Minnesota’s DWI – drug laws are similar; in terms of scope, enforcement and absurdity.
An Illusory “Exception”?
While the law makes it a crime to have certain prescription drugs in your system, a provision in Minnesota’s law creates a defense to DWI – drugs for those who can prove to a jury or judge that they took the drug in accordance with a prescription. Unfortunately, this exception shifts the burden of proof to defendants and in almost every case would require them to take the stand in their own defense. We believe this violates basic, fundamental, constitutional trial rights. Most alarming, this exception applies only in criminal cases. Minnesota’s Implied Consent Law does not recognize this affirmative defense in civil, drivers’ license cases.
Can this really be what the legislature intended? What percentage of the population is violating this law today? How many of them are legislators driving with a schedule I or II prescription drug in their system?
Look for our blog post coming soon: “Doctrine of Absurd Results.”