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Minnesota woman appeals drunk driving penalty citing necessity

Anyone who is familiar with Minnesota's drunk driving laws knows that they include a wide range of legal consequences. Beyond potential fines and time behind bars, those who are convicted for driving under the influence of alcohol automatically lose their driver's license for at least 90 days. As the nature of DUI charges change, the period for license revocation may be extended.

For many people, losing their driver's license for any length of time can create a long list of consequences. Namely, a person may not be able to get to work -- or maintain a job -- without a valid driver's license. A Minnesota woman is appealing the state's decision to revoke her license after she was charged for drunk driving.

The details of the woman's case are nothing short of heartrending. She has offered the defense that she had no choice but to get behind the wheel of her vehicle after consuming alcohol. Reports indicate that the woman was the victim of domestic violence and made the decision to drive after consuming alcohol to escape her abusive husband.

After being arrested on suspicion of DUI, the woman pled guilty to a reduced charge, but she still lost her license for approximately six months. She has brought her case all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court, saying that she shouldn't have lost her license based on the necessity defense. This legal argument is based on the idea that the woman acted for her own safety. In other words, the consequences for violating DUI laws were less harmful than obeying them.

This is a case in which the totality of circumstances behind the incident are critical. Defendants should not have to feel as though they must simply accept the consequences of criminal charges without offering up a defense. Rather, there may be valuable legal options available.

In the end, the Minnesota Supreme Court's ruling could impact the way certain DUI cases are handled throughout the state. The hope is that the situation is rectified for the woman who felt like she only had one option and others in a similar situation.

Source: Star Tribune, "Tricky case before Minnesota top court: Drunken driver who fled abuser," David Chanen, Dec. 13, 2013

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