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Can you get arrested for DWI In Your Own Driveway?

In a land mark ruling in July of 2017, the Michigan Supreme Court convicted a man of DWI for operating a motor vehicle in your own driveway. The police can actually come in, investigate and arrest an individual for driving while intoxicated within their own property.

In the case of the State of Michigan v. Gino Roberto Rea, the defendant was found guilty of driving while intoxicated, even though he was in his car on his own driveway. Gino Roberto Rea’s case was thrust into the spotlight in 2014 when neighbors complained to the police at least three times, about noise that was coming from his property. In response to the complaints, an officer visited his premises and found Rea intoxicated and attempting to back out of his garage. Even though he reentered the garage, the officer arrested him and was later found to have three times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood.

The reason for his arrest was that he had been operating his motor vehicle while drunk, leading to the question of whether an individual can be arrested for DWI while stationary within their own driveway. According to the Michigan Vehicle Code section 257.625 (1), it is unlawful for a person to operate a motor vehicle on a highway or any place that is accessible to the general public and to other vehicles including designated parking areas while intoxicated.

When Rea’s case was first taken to court, his lawyer filed a motion stating that because he had been drinking and driving within his property, he did not break the law. The judge agreed with this motion and dismissed the case. However, the case was taken to the Supreme Court of Appeals under the argument that Rea’s driveway was well within public access and thus it was unlawful for him to operate his vehicle on his driveway while intoxicated.

In the case of the State of Michigan v. Gino Roberto Rea, the fact that the defendant’s property was within access to the public and other vehicle users, prevailed over his right to operate a motor vehicle in the property while intoxicated. According to the prosecutor, there was no barrier between the street and Rea’s driveway to prevent other motorists from accessing the driveway. As a result, Rea was found guilty of operating his vehicle while intoxicated in an area where he could endanger the lives of other motorists.

This ruling is not a law to say explicitly that operating a vehicle in one’s driveway while intoxicated is unlawful. However, it sets precedence to show that just because you are in your driveway, you are not exempt from being charged with a  DWI especially when you endanger the lives of the public and other motorists.

Minnesota law on DWI prohibits operating, driving and being in physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or other intoxicating substances. The law does not create a boundary between private and public property but uses the criteria of whether these areas are accessible to vehicle use or not.

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