Prescription Drugs DWI in Minnesota - The Unjust Result

UPDATE – This post is no longer an accurate summary of the law. Minnesota law changed in July 2017 to fix this unjust result. Please read this for historical context purposes only. Contact our office with any questions about this complicated, yet critical DWI defense.

You may not realize that you are violating Minnesota’s DWI laws on a daily basis if you are taking certain prescribed medications. Under Minn. Stat. 169A.20, subd. 1(7), it is illegal to drive with any amount of schedule I or II controlled substances in your system. Schedule I and II controlled substances include morphine, opiates, and opium derivatives – a.k.a. substances commonly found in prescribed drugs used by thousands of Minnesotans on a daily basis. Remember, any amount in your system violates the DWI law.

You’re probably thinking – there must be a recourse or some protection, right?? Yes, but there’s an unjust catch. Under Minn. Stat. 169A.46, an affirmative defense to a DWI charge is that the defendant (1) had a current prescription for the controlled substance and (2) was using the controlled substance in accordance with the prescription.

The catch – the defendant must prove this by a preponderance of the evidence. This means that, in order to demonstrate a simple fact (like driving after taking a common prescription drug), the defendant must take the stand to carry his or her burden of proof. By that point, the defendant has been arrested, booked, had criminal charges brought against them (which are permanent records unless expunged), likely incurred the expense of hiring an experienced Minnesota DWI attorney that knows how to raise this affirmative defense, and then been to multiple court appearances before they can take the stand to testify before a judge or jury.

If that wasn’t unjust enough, this affirmative defense is not recognized in the implied consent setting – which means, the defendant will face a lengthy and expensive driver’s license revocation, and possible plate impoundment and/or vehicle forfeiture, without being able to utilize this critical affirmative defense. This is not only unjust – it’s absurd.

But this is the nature of Minnesota’s DWI law. And this further points to why it is critical that you hire us – aggressive and seasoned Minnesota DUI lawyers – immediately to help you through this system.