A recent article in the Austin Daily Herald wants to make sure readers, whether teens or other drivers, are safe and sober during prom season. Law enforcement officials across Minnesota are working with the state Department of Transportation to crack down on underage drinking and driving during this especially busy time of year.
It’s illegal for anyone under 21 to consume or be found in possession of alcohol, yet teens are a shockingly large proportion of the drunk drivers arrested in the state for having caused traffic accidents. Minnesota Statute Section 169A.33 clearly forbids any individual under 21 years of age from driving, operating or being in physical control of any motor vehicle while either consuming alcoholic beverages, or after having consumed an alcoholic beverage and there is any physical evidence of consumption present in the individual’s body.
It is also important to note that a DWI offender 16 or 17 years of age may be under the jurisdiction of the adult court instead of the juvenile court system thereby subjecting them to some of the same consequences an adult offender may be subject to, if convicted. A driver of a motor vehicle, under the age of 21, convicted of DWI without having a prior conviction for DWI or any other aggravating factor, is subject to misdemeanor penalties and subsequent license revocation.
In Minnesota, teenagers amount to only 8% of drivers yet contribute to14% of the crashes. Throw in a car full of friends, cell phones, texting and alcohol use and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. All such factors contribute to car crashes being the leading cause of deaths for teens in the state.
In 2010, there were 3,743 car crashes related to alcohol consumption. Such crashes resulted in the deaths of 131 and injuries to an additional 2,485. Proving that teens make up a disproportionate share of drunk drivers, the state saw some 29,918 DWI arrests in 2010. Of these, 53% were for people between the ages of 21-34; an additional 7% of the arrests were for those 21 or younger.
Law enforcement officials across the state began stricter enforcement of Minnesota’s Zero Tolerance Law during prom season. The law, also known as the “Not A Drop” law, says that anyone under 21 who is found driving with even a drop of alcohol in their system will automatically have their driver’s license suspended. The effects of such behavior can be far-reaching and include potential jail time, the loss of a driver’s license and possibly even being mandated use of ignition interlocking devices. Perpetrators’ insurance rates will also surely go up as a result of a DWI and money will need to then be spent on attorney’s fees and court costs.
Unlike a conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more, if a driver is convicted solely of Minnesota’s Zero Tolerance Law, but didn’t have their driver’s license revoked for having a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more nor were they convicted of DWI, the offense then is not “enhanceable”. In other words, if the Zero Tolerance driver is later charged within 10 years of a DWI offense, the conviction for the Zero Tolerance violation cannot be used to enhance the later DUI or DWI conviction to a more serious offense. However, it can still be considered by the court at sentencing.
Though young drivers are subject to tough laws and face sometimes punitive zero tolerance provisions, it’s important to remember that they still deserve access to a proper legal defense. Young drivers, like any other drivers, are entitled to the presumption of innocence and to a zealous legal defense. Therefore, if you or someone you know has been charged with DWI, then immediately contact an experienced Minnesota criminal and DWI attorney. Having more than 17 years of DWI case experience, Douglas T. Kans can provide you the diligent DWI defense you deserve.