According to reports from local papers in Minnesota, a staggering 1,300 people have been arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated in only the first few weeks of December. The number only includes those arrested between December 1 and December 20, a rate that is on track to surpass 2,000 arrests by the end of month.
The recent rash of arrests is in response to a move by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety to crack down on drunk drivers in the state. The state DPS organized a campaign called “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” and law enforcement agencies throughout the state will be participating in an attempt to reduce the number of DWI-related accidents and deaths on Minnesota roadways.
The recent Minnesota campaign comes on the heels of national news that drunk driving deaths across the country have dropped to a record low. The Department of Transportation recently released figures that showed fatalities in alcohol-related crashes dropped 2.5% to 9,878 last year. This represents a staggering 53% decline in such deaths since numbers were first collected back in 1982.
Though the number of people arrested so far this month may seem like a lot, it’s sadly on track with normal trends for this time of year. Every year officers across the state arrest nearly 30,000 people in Minnesota for driving while intoxicated. In fact, this December is fairly consistent with the number of arrests seen over the last several years. Over the past three years, authorities have detained 7,497 people in December alone.
This decline hasn’t stopped local enforcement agencies from continuing a harsh crackdown on suspected drunk drivers. Penalties for intoxicated driving in Minnesota are as severe as ever, and even first time offenders face life-chancing consequences. A first time conviction for DWI can result in the loss of driving privileges for up to a year, substantially higher insurance costs, court fees, criminal fines and possibly even jail time. Repeat offenders are subject to even stiffer penalties and often presented with the choice of lengthy license suspensions or use of expensive ignition interlock devices. While this already seems punitive, these financial and legal consequences don’t even begin to take into consideration the embarrassment and potential harm to your career or future job prospects that can come from a DWI conviction.
Given the recent push by the state’s DPS, officers across the state will be on heightened alert throughout the rest of the month and into the New Year. Officers will be looking for any telltale signs of drunk driving and, in their zeal to keep the streets safe, may arrest innocent drivers. Given the huge costs associated with a DWI conviction, it’s critical that if this happens, you seek the support of an experienced Minnesota DWI attorney immediately.