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Woman fleeing violent husband charged with drunk driving

Some criminal cases simply seem destined for wide media dissemination and impassioned comment from various perspectives. The following case from Minnesota seems to squarely qualify for such inclusion, and we provide our readers in North Carolina and elsewhere with its material details. We believe the matter to be both interesting and thought-provoking.

Here’s the gist of what happened at a lake cabin in rural Minnesota in May 2011. After violence broke out between a married couple, the woman jumped into the couple’s car to escape her abusive spouse, who was drunk. Fearing an imminent and serious domestic violence attack (her husband had jumped onto the car after smashing its windshield), she drove off, reportedly for about one mile.

She was subsequently arrested for drunk driving. She ultimately pleaded to a lesser charge and had her license revoked. The husband was convicted of domestic abuse.

The woman’s legal challenge wound its way through the state’s legal system, eventually arriving before the Minnesota Supreme Court.

That tribunal found against the woman just last week, with a 4-3 majority ruling holding that existing law does not provide the means to challenge a license revocation on other than a narrow list of enumerated grounds. Domestic violence is not one of those grounds.

Several justices offered withering criticism of the opinion, with one court member saying that the decision implied the unavailability of a DWI/DUI defense based on even the most violent of assaults.

Many commentators on domestic violence will likely have something to say about the ruling in its wake.

Although the woman concedes that driving “was a bad choice,” she says that it was her only choice.

That comment will certainly resonate with many domestic abuse victims.

Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Minn. Supreme Court rejects DWI defense for fleeing abuse,” David Chanen, May 21, 2014

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