Mora, MN- A Minnesota woman who was charged with a DUI after she attempted to flee her abusive boyfriend is trying to get her license reinstated by taking her case through the appeals process. Now her case had landed in the Minnesota Supreme Court and justices must decide if her necessity defense is enough to reinstate her license.
Two years ago Jennifer Axelberg, 39, was in dangerous situation and was afraid for her personal safety. Her intoxicated boyfriend was enraged and a fight between the two was quickly turning physical. Axelberg ran from the cabin she and her boyfriend were staying in rural Minnesota and jumped into her vehicle. She said she had no intention of driving and didn’t even put the keys in the ignition until her boyfriend started pounding on the windshield, the Minnesota Star Tribune reported. She didn’t have a cell phone with her.
As the windshield began to shatter, Axleberg fled her violent boyfriend and began driving away from the couple’s cabin to get help. She was less than a mile away when she was pulled over by an officer and arrested for driving under the influence.
Axelberg pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving and her license was revoked for 6 months. She appealed her case and it finally landed in the hands of the state’s Supreme Court. Using the necessity defense, Axleberg’s attorney argued that the harm his client faced outweighed the harm she faced by obeying the state’s drunken driving laws.
Last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Axleberg’s case and is trying to determine if the necessity defense applies in her case. One of the justices insisted the necessity defense could only be used as a criminal defense and did not apply to civil license revocations.
“I’m fighting for others who might get into this situation,” Axelberg, said after the hearing, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Getting behind the wheel was a bad choice. When you have no other choice, what are you left with?”
Other justices seemed to understand the tough decision Axleberg faced. According to the Star-Tribune, Justice David Lillehaug asked the attorney representing the Department of Public Safety what he would tell a drunken person to do if a gun was being held to their held and told to drive.
The attorney, John Galus, told the justices he would tell his, grandmother, mother or daughter to drive, to get away from an abusive partner.
Throughout the hearing, the Justices’ comments and questions indicated that they sympathized with Axelberg’s plight, but it is unclear whether her necessity defense will prevail. Her license has long been reinstated but she said she is fighting the charge on principle.
Her attorney told the court that his client was being punished for saving her own life and asked if justices couldn’t make a decision in this case they refer it to a district court so they can litigate the necessity defense.
Axelberg’s boyfriend was charged and pleaded guilty to domestic abuse. They are both clean and sober and have reconciled.