It’s been a little over one year since Minnesota implemented enhanced DWI sanctions in an effort to prevent road accidents due to driving while impaired. Roughly one year ago, Minnesota started requiring certain DWI offenders to install interlock ignition device on their vehicles. Otherwise, these offenders could lose their driver’s license.
Last year, there were 111 road fatalities due to alcohol-related crashes involving pedestrians and drivers with a BAC of 0.08 or higher. The number accounted for 30% of 368 traffic fatalities in Minnesota. In the same year, 29,257 drunk drivers were arrested for DWI. The top counties for alcohol-related deaths and injuries were Anoka, Ramsey, Hennepin, St. Louis, Olmsted, Dakota, Wright, Rice, Stearns, Washington, Scott, Sherburne and Carver.
Minnesota Mandatory Minimum Sentence DWI Laws
As of July 1, 2011, court judges in Minnesota are no longer required to impose the mandatory minimum sentence for drivers who are facing their second drunk driving charge in a 10-year period, provided that these drivers operate vehicles with installed ignition interlock devices. The statute gives judges the authority to sentence DWI offenders with less or even no jail time, less electronic home monitoring, and an overall lighter sentence.
It’s important to note that judges are not required to depart from the mandatory minimum sentence if a DWI offender installs an ignition interlock device, but the statute gives the defendants and their DWI attorneys the opportunity to argue for a lesser sentence compared to the mandatory minimum sentence.
Since the implementation of the use of ignition interlock devices one year ago, a total of 2,796 eligible DWI offenders have installed the device in their vehicles. Officials of the Department of Public Works and Safety (DPS) hope that this number will increase as more DWI offenders have seen the benefits of using the device, specifically the legal driving privileges. The use of this device costs approximately $3 to $4 per day.
How Effective Has the Ignition Interlock Program Been?
According to Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, interlock devices reduce drunk-driving offenses by an average of 64%. While the result of a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation showed that 70% of all drunk drivers drive illegally after the arrest, only 2% out of all ignition interlock device users have re-offended.
Minnesota is one of the 32 states in the U.S. using ignition interlock for first-time drunk driving offenders. First-time and repeat DWI offenders that register 0.16 BAC or above during the arrest are required to use interlock devices if they wish to regain their driving privileges. Otherwise, they will experience at least a year without their driver’s license. DWI offenders who have committed three or more offenses are required to install interlock device for a period of three to six years.
The ignition interlock device is installed under the dashboard and connected to the vehicle’s starter. The vehicle’s engine will only start when the device detects a BAC below 0.02 after the driver blows into it. The device also requires the driver to blow into the machine after the vehicle starts and randomly thereafter. The machine’s in-car cameras record the breath tests, and the DPS can obtain video and test results from the machine in order to monitor the driver’s breath testing activity.
While the ignition interlock device may allow certain DWI offenders to get back on the road after being arrested for drunk driving, a DWI violation is still a serious offense that carries high penalties and fines. If you’re charged with DWI in Minnesota, contact Douglas T. Kans, an experienced DWI lawyer who is always ready to help defend you in your DWI case. You may contact Kans Law Firm, LLC at (952) 835-6314 for a free case consultation.