Court upholds DWI penalty for woman who fled abusive husband


The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Wednesday against a woman who lost her license for driving drunk to escape a fight with her abusive husband.

Jennifer Axelberg, 39, of Monticello, had argued that she shouldn’t have had her driver’s license revoked for the DWI, because she was fleeing from a situation that could have been far more serious, MPR News reports.

Axelberg and her husband, Jason, were at their cabin in Kanabec County in May 2011 and got in a fight after drinking alcohol, according to MPR News. Her husband hit Axelberg on the head, so she ran to her car and drove about a mile to a nearby resort. A police officer there arrested her husband for assault, and arrested her for drunk driving.

Axelberg cited the "necessity defense," claiming the damage that could have resulted from obeying the law and not driving outweighed the harm caused by breaking it. In this case, she argued, she could have been beaten by her husband, the Star Tribune reports.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals panel ruled against her in June, saying that defense doesn't apply to Minnesota's "implied consent" law, which requires a driver to submit to a blood alcohol test or lose his or her driver’s license.

According to the Star Tribune, the Supreme Court upheld that decision Wednesday on a divided 4-3 vote.

In her majority opinion, Chief Justice Lori Gildea wrote that the court is upholding the law as it's written.

“Axelberg and our dissenting colleagues argue that is it bad public policy to force victims of domestic abuse to choose between license revocation and personal safety. This public policy concern should be directed to the Legislature because we must read this state’s laws as they are, not as some argue they should be.”

Justice Alan Page dissented, saying he believes the majority decision will discourage victims of domestic abuse from fleeing their attackers.

“Today the court, in essence, concludes that losing the privilege to drive is a small price to pay for saving your life,” Page wrote.

The Axelbergs are sober now and have gone through counseling, according to the Star Tribune.

Next Up

jim ramstad

Watch former Rep. Jim Ramstad's memorial service online

The ceremony will be live-streamed for the public on Sunday.


How high can Rashod Bateman go in the 2021 NFL Draft?

The Gophers star receiver has plenty of praise heading into next April.

TCF Bank Stadium

15 more from Gopher football team test positive for COVID-19

That brings the total number of cases from this outbreak to 40.

Teddy Bridgewater

5 questions for Vikings-Panthers Week 12 NFC battle

The Vikings welcome Teddy Bridgewater back to U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.

police lights

Shelter-in-place in Albert Lea after police officer shot in the chest

The officer was able to drive to an emergency room.


St. Paul officer shoots man who got out of dumpster, ran towards police

A report says the man was naked and had a steak knife.

Screen Shot 2020-11-28 at 6.58.11 PM

Gophers dominate second half to defeat Loyola-Marymount

Marcus Carr scored 26 to send the Gophers to 2-0.

Ambulance hospital emergency

Kandiyohi Co. man airlifted after hand caught in corn picker

Corn pickers are a common cause of farm accidents.

White tail deer

DNR: Passenger shot at deer out of driver's side window

The DNR said 'all sense of safety was disregarded.'

Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 9.10.30 AM

Mpls council proposal would cut nearly $8M from 2021 police budget

The "Safety for All Budget Plan" was introduced Friday.