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Minnesota farmer pleads guilty to DWI in tractor on his farm

Some people may be surprised to learn how broadly Minnesota driving while impaired statutes apply when it comes to the location of an alleged offense. Some states limit DWI charges to public areas or public roads. In Minnesota, the DWI statutes have broad reach and prosecutors may enforce the laws in non-public areas.

A recent story from Southern Minnesota underscores the reach of the Minnesota DWI statute. Authorities claim that a farmer called police to report that his neighbor had allegedly been harassing him in a field in Southern Minnesota. When police arrived, people said that the caller had been trespassing in the field and farmers told him to leave the property. A dispute arose and farmers said that some people threw beer cans at the alleged trespasser, which is when the trespasser called police.

A 37-year-old Chatfield, Minnesota, man was in his tractor in the field when a deputy sought to speak to him. Authorities claim that the deputy ran about 150 yards into the field to catch up with the tractor. Ultimately, the farmer was arrested in his own field on suspicion of driving the tractor while impaired. He pleaded guilty to one count of fourth-degree DWI, a misdemeanor. In exchange for the guilty plea a gross-misdemeanor DWI charge and allegations of disorderly conduct were dismissed.

The DWI statute essentially states that it is unlawful to drive, operate or be in control of a motor vehicle within Minnesota while under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, other hazardous substances, or a combination of any of the above (additional provisions expand the scope of Minnesota DWI laws as well). The reach of the statute may apply to private property in Minnesota.

Source: KTTC, "Chatfield farmer free after two-day jail sentence for DWI on tractor," Noel Sederstrom, May 20, 2014

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