Being arrested for a DWI in Minnesota may also lead to another offense, even if unbeknownst to the driver at the time of the DWI. For those who carry a firearm, either on their person, or in their vehicle within arm’s reach, they could face charges of Carrying While Under the Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance.
This is not an intentional crime. It can happen without a person even realizing it. They can even get this charge if they are not driving a vehicle at all. A person could go to a bar while having a valid conceal and carry permit and a firearm. All legal things to do depending on the establishment. They could even have an alcoholic beverage, unless they become under the influence of alcohol or have an alcohol concentration of .04 or more. That is the point where someone violates this law. There are a total of six ways someone could violate this statute:
- Being under the influence of a controlled substance;
- Being under the influence of a combination of a controlled substance, alcohol or intoxicating substance;
- Being under the influence of an intoxicating substance;
- Being under the influence of alcohol;
- Having an alcohol concentration of .10 or more; or
- Having an alcohol concentration of more than .04 but less than .10.
Commonly, you see a charge for Carrying a Firearm While Under the Influence in conjunction with a DWI arrest. The firearm does not even have to be physically on the driver. The statute prohibits carrying “on or about the person’s clothes or person in a public place.” In State v. Prigge, the Minnesota Supreme Court determined that a gun in the center console was within arm’s reach and qualified for being “about a person’s clothes.” Prigge involved a person being arrested on suspicion of DWI. What was not challenged in that case was whether driving on a road in Maple Grove was a “public place.” Recently, the Minnesota Supreme Court addressed that issue in State v. Serbus.
In Serbus, the court answered the question whether a driver of a motor vehicle on a public highway is in a “public place” for the purpose of this law. The driver argued that being inside their vehicle while driving was not technically a public place, because it is not regularly open to the public. The court agreed that the statute was ambiguous as to the definition of public place for this law only. But, it then determined that applying this law to impaired drivers on public roads protects the public while imposing only a minimal burden on lawful permit holders. Therefore, the court decided that driving a motor vehicle on a public highway is a public place for the purpose of this law.
The first time someone is charged with this offense it is a misdemeanor. A subsequent violation is a gross misdemeanor. Additionally, a person can lose their authority to carry a pistol in a public place for 180 days to 1 year.