This past weekend an 18-year-old in Northfield, MN was arrested after police spotted him driving erratically down the street. Officers say they watched as a car, which was later discovered to have been stolen, swerved in and out of its lane several times, even crossing over the median before finally stopping. Police say the driver of the vehicle pulled the car over himself, getting out and looking under the car for something.
It was at this point that police moved in on the teenage driver. An officer approached the car and told the teen to get back in the vehicle. The whole time the 18-year-old allegedly continued muttering, “Drunk, so drunk” over and over. After getting back inside the vehicle, the driver told the officer to take him to jail.
The arresting officer said that not only did the driver smell of alcohol, but he admitted without prompting that he did not know where he was, where he was going or how he had gotten the car that he was driving. The teen went on to admit to sneaking in the back of a bar in Northfield at closing time and consuming vodka, rum and other alcoholic beverages in an attempt to cause himself to blackout. The teen appeared to be well on his way given his BAC. Once he was arrested and taken to Northfield Safety Center, police determined his blood alcohol concentration was 0.224 percent, or not quite three times the state’s legal limit.
The Minnesota case is an unfortunate one given that such a young person will now have to worry about the damage a drunk driving conviction can cause to his future. The case is also interesting in that it provides a segue to discuss an issue that many people in the state may not fully understand: there is no uniform legal limit in Minnesota. Instead, different groups can be found to violate the law at different levels.
Everyone knows that the legal limit for most drivers in Minnesota is 0.08 percent. What many may not know is that other levels, lower levels, can still result in an arrest depending on the particular facts of the case. For instance, teen drivers like the one in this case fall under Minnesota’s Zero Tolerance law, also known as the “Not a drop” law. This law says that it is a misdemeanor crime for any person younger than 21 to operate a motor vehicle while there is evidence of alcohol in the person’s system. That means that if a young driver, whether they are 16 or 20, blows anything on a Breathalyzer test then they can be found to have violated the state’s underage drinking laws.
While a violation of the zero-tolerance law does result in license suspension, it is not the same thing as a DWI charge and cannot be used to enhance any future DWI convictions. It probably is worth mentioning to those who might be concerned that the Zero Tolerance law only applies to drivers, not to passengers in the car, even if those passengers are under the age of 21.
Source: Carrie Swiggum, published at SouthernMinn.com.