Southern District Decides: Asleep at the Wheel is DWI
State of Missouri v. Rodwin Ojurm Mammah; SD SD33039
In February 2012, Springfield, Missouri police responded to a report of a driver “asleep behind the wheel” at an intersection. When law enforcement arrived, the driver, Rodwin Ojurm Mammah, was found inside a vehicle that was stopped in the inside lane of traffic with the engine running and "still in drive." His "eyes were closed, his head was resting on his chest, and he was drooling,” but "was still applying pressure to the brakes.”
Although police officers “banged on the window several times and tried to yell at him” and turned on the patrol car’s siren and air horn, the driver did not wake. Ultimately, police shook the stopped vehicle, waking Mr. Mammah. After putting the vehicle in drive, police officers physically escorted Mr. Mammah from the car. Police could smell alcohol and Mr. Mammah's eyes were bloodshot and watery. After law enforcement concluded he was intoxicated, Mr. Mammah was placed under arrest for DWI.
Ultimately, Rodwin Ojurm Mammah was found guilty for DWI.
Mr. Mammah appealed his conviction, arguing that there was "no evidence of how long [Defendant] had been sitting behind the wheel, asleep” or how much time passed between the initial report of a sleeping driver and law enforcement’s discovery of the defendant asleep in his truck. Mr Mammah further argued that, because his "truck could have been idling for hours before anyone notified police…there was simply no evidence that he was intoxicated at the time he fell asleep at the stop light."
On November 5, 2014, the Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District upheld the trial court’s decision and affirmed Mr. Mammah’s conviction. In its decision the Southern District found that:
“Here, Defendant's truck was in a traffic lane, it was "still in drive[,]" the engine was running, and Defendant "was still applying pressure to the brakes." Added to the Defendant's concession on appeal that there was evidence that he was intoxicated when officers arrived, these facts are sufficient to allow a reasonable fact-finder to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant was operating the truck while in an intoxicated condition when [police officers] approached it.”
Why Does This Matter?
Under the law, a person commits the crime of DWI if he operates a motor vehicle while in an intoxicated or drugged condition. §577.010.1 RSMo. Missouri law interprets the terms drive, driving, operates or operating as “physically driving or operating a motor vehicle." §577.001.1 RSMo.
In Mr. Mammah’s case, the Court found that “a vehicle can be "operated" by a person even if that person is sleeping or unconscious.” As a result, the Court’s decision demonstrates that lack of consciousness or being asleep at the wheel is not a defense to DWI.
There are many ways to prevent suspicion of DWI, including using alternative forms of transportation when you go out drinking. In the event you are suspected of driving while intoxicated, law enforcement and the prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you were in fact beyond the legal limit, aka drunk while driving.
If you have been arrested for DWI or DUI, you have many options to avoid conviction and jail time. Contact the Kaiser Law Office today for a consultation to discuss your options and protect your rights.