Locating A DWI In The State Of Minnesota
According to Minnesota law, a DWI is defined as when you drive with an alcohol concentration level (ACL) of .08 or higher, or .04 if you are driving a commercial vehicle. When an offender is convicted of a DWI, they are subject to criminal penalties and certain sanctions. Further, even if an offender does not have an ACL of .08 (.04 commercial), they can be convicted of a DWI if the arresting officer can prove that driving errors were directly caused by lower alcohol concentrations. All alcohol-related offenses that deprive the offender of driving privileges come with a $680 reinstatement fee, a mandatory DWI knowledge course, a chemical health assessment, and resubmission of driver’s license application with all applicable fees.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety reports that each year, more than 25,000 people in the state are arrested for DWI offenses.
Minnesota supports the use of interlock ignition devices, which requires a DWI offender to provide a breath sample before starting their vehicle. If the device detects alcohol, the vehicle will not start. First time offenders with an ACL of .16 or higher and second time DWI offenders are required to use the device at their own expense for one to two years. Offenders may opt to not use the device, but in turn will lose driving privileges for the same period. DWI offenders on their third offense (within a 10 year period) must either use the device or lose driving privileges for three to six years.
Drivers with DWIs often face penalties including having a limited license (a paper license that is issued while driving privileges are revoked, only allowing them to drive to and from work, school, and mandated programs) or an ignition interlock restricted license (a driver's license that only allows the person to drive a vehicle if an ignition interlock device is installed.
"Drivers can be convicted of a DWI if the arresting officer can prove that driving errors were directly caused by lower alcohol concentrations"
Persons Killed in Crashes Involving a Drunk Driver
Number of Deaths, 2003−2012
people were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver in Minnesota
Rate of Deaths by Age (per 100,000 population), 2012
Rate of Deaths by Gender (per 100,000 population), 2012
First time offenders
When a driver is found with an ACL of more than .08 but less than .16, they are charged with a misdemeanor DWI, which may be punishable with 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. If a child was present in the vehicle, the driver was found with an ACL of .16, or if the driver refused a breathalyzer test at the time of the arrest, the punishment is increased to a gross misdemeanor, which may be punishable by up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine.
In terms of driver’s license administrative sanctions, the standard punishment is a 90 day period or restricted driving privileges with a choice of either a 15 day period of zero driving privileges and 75 days of restricted license driving, or a 90 day period with the use of an ignition interlock device. If the driver pleads guilty to the DWI, the 90 day period is reduced to 30 days.
If there was a child in the vehicle, the punishment is increased to include a mandatory impounding of license plates. If the driver was found with a .16 ACL, the punishment increases to one year of either no driving privileges or one year of a mandatory ignition interlock device. If the driver was found with a .16 ACL and a child was in the vehicle at the time of the arrest, the offender’s vehicle is forfeit.
If the offender refuses the ACL test, they are subject to 15 days of zero driving privileges and one year of limited license privileges, or one full year of mandatory ignition interlock device use.
Second time offender
All second time DWI offenders are charged with gross misdemeanors. The driver is punishable with one year in jail and a $3,000 fine for all categories.
If the driver’s ACL was higher than .08 but under .16, they face one year of zero driving privileges or one year of mandatory use of an ignition interlock device. They will also have their license plates impounded. If there was a child present in the vehicle at the time of the arrest, the driver’s vehicle is forfeit.
If the driver’s ACL was higher than .16, the punishment is increased to two years for each previous punishment. They also must forfeit their vehicle. The punishment is the same if there was a child present in the vehicle at the time of the arrest.
If the driver refuses to take an ACL test, they are subject to one year of zero driving privileges or one year of mandatory use of an ignition interlock device.
Third time offender
For any level of ACL, or if the ACL test is refused, drivers on their third offense face a gross misdemeanor, one year in jail, and a $3,000 fine. Their license is canceled as “inimical to public safety.” The driver faces three years of mandatory use of an ignition interlock device which includes one year of limited license privileges and two years of restricted license privileges following treatment at an outpatient clinic for alcohol abuse. The driver’s license plate is impounded, and their vehicle made forfeit.
Fourth or more offense within a 10 year period
Drivers on their fourth offense (or more) in a 10 year period to their third face a felony, seven years in prison, and a $14,000 fine. Their license is canceled as “inimical to public safety.” The driver faces four to six years of mandatory use of an ignition interlock device which includes one year of limited license privileges and three to five years of restricted license privileges following treatment at an outpatient clinic for alcohol abuse. The driver’s license plate is impounded, and their vehicle made forfeit.
"DWI offenders often face penalties including having a limited license or an ignition interlock restricted license"
Courtesy of the Center for Disease Control
Source: CDC. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), 1993–2014. Available at www.cdc.gov
Note: The annual estimated alcohol-impaired driving episodes were calculated using BRFSS respondents’ answers to this question: “During the past 30 days, how many times have you driven when you’ve had perhaps too much to drink?” Annual estimates per respondent were calculated by multiplying the reported episodes during the preceding 30 days by 12. These numbers were summed to obtain the annual national estimates (see www.cdc.gov).
“Offenders on their fourth offense (or more) in a 10 year period to their third face a felony, seven years in prison, and a $14,000 fine.”
Minnesota incorporates “implied consent” law into their DWI laws. These laws state that a “person who drives, operates, or is in control of any type of motor vehicle anywhere in the state consents to a chemical test of breath, blood, or urine for the purpose of determining the presence of alcohol or controlled or intoxicating substances in the person’s body.” This essentially means that it is assumed that all drivers in the state inherently consent to a test to determine their ACL, and if they do not they are subject to the same, and sometimes worse, punishments. The law continues, stipulating that an officer does not need a warrant to require a breath sample, though they will need on to require a person to provide a bodily fluid sample, including one of blood or urine. The law states that in order to build probable cause, an officer may “observe the impaired driving behavior and form a reasonable suspicion of an impaired driving violation, stop and question the driver, administer a standardized field sobriety test, and administer a preliminary breath test.”
From 1981 to 1986, under pressure from such advocacy groups as the Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Minnesota’s legislature passed legislation to make DWI laws much harsher.
Besides raising the minimum drinking age to 21, the two biggest changes that were enacted were that now DWI offenders would be prosecuted with the intent to convict, and that alcohol concentration level (ACL) tests would determine if a driver was intoxicated, rather than the loose definition that had existed up to the point. Yet even determining a driver’s ACL was difficult initially. The first portal device to see field use was called the “drunkometer” and consisted of a rubber balloon filled with reactive chemicals that would change when coming into contact a drunk driver’s breath. This would finally be replaced by the more standard Breathalyzer in 1954.