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Charges: Drunk Passenger Caused Crash In St. Paul

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — After crashing a car on a Twin Cities Interstate, the driver didn’t face criminal charges but her passenger did.

Mollie Marie Lenzi faces two felony counts of criminal vehicular operation in connection with the April 19 incident. The crash happened at about 2:25 a.m. that day in St. Paul along Interstate 94 near Western Avenue.

Lenzi and her three friends had been out earlier in the night at The Wild Onion Bar in St. Paul. They were celebrating Lenzi’s birthday and planned to get home safely with a designated driver. But police said that plan backfired when Lenzi, from the passenger’s seat, caused a crash.

According to a criminal complaint, the driver, Natalie Mast, said Lenzi “grabbed the steering wheel and turned it, causing the car to veer to the left, and crash into the median wall.”

Mast said Lenzi was “very drunk,” and at the accident scene, Mast gave an alcohol breath test to a result of .025, under the legal limit for driving. Mast broke a few ribs, and Lenzi headed to the hospital.

While talking with Lenzi in the hospital, a state trooper noted her eyes were watery and bloodshot, and her speech was slurred. He also noted she smelled of alcohol.

A blood sample revealed Lenzi’s alcohol concentration was more than twice the legal limit. The Ramsey County Attorney charged her with causing the crash and injuring her driver.

“The state, regarding DWI, clearly states that a person only needs to be in physical control of a vehicle.  In this particular case, that physical control was the passenger grabbing that steering wheel, causing the crash,” said Lt. Eric Roeske with the Minnesota State Patrol. “You only need to be in control for a moment or two to be a danger to you or someone else.”

It happened on an April night that started as a party but took an unexpected turn. Lenzi’s lawyer said the charges are just allegations at this point and wouldn’t comment on them.

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