New Minnesota DWI Laws Effective July 1st, 2011 Marks Full Implementation of the Ignition Interlock Program

A new set of Minnesota DWI laws will take effect come July 1st, 2011 that governs the use of ignition interlock devices (IID) for DWI offenders who wish to regain their driving privileges, and provide tougher sanctions for those who refuse to take part in the ignition interlock device program.


Context and Background

The IID legislation was passed last year and is part of the ongoing drive by the Minnesota State Legislature to make the roads safer for all Minnesota motorists and bring down the numbers of alcohol-related deaths on the road. A pilot program for ignition interlock devices began in 2009 and has over 1,000 participants who have regained their driver’s licenses by installing interlock devices. So far, more than 40 other states have already passed similar legislation on the use of ignition interlock devices, which means a nationwide run is only years away.


Highlights of the Law - First DWI Offenses

If this is your first DWI, and if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level is at .08 to .15, the law, for the most part, remains unchanged.   The driver will still be facing a 90 day driver’s license revocation. The only difference is that the individual will now have a choice. As before, the driver can choose to serve a hard 15 day revocation before he or she would be elligible to drive with a limited license for work. Otherwise, the driver can choose to enroll in the interlock program and have full driving privileges for the revocation period.

However, if your first DWI offense registers a BAC of .16 or higher, the law will change dramatically. The drivers license revocation period will now be for one year, as opposed to 90 days under the previous law (or 6 months if the BAC was .20 or more). However, the driver has the choice of driving with full driving privileges, if they agree to enroll in the interlock program.
Refusing to take a chemical test also warrants a revoked license for a year. Should you wish to have full driving privileges during this period, you’ll have to agree to install the device on your vehicle. However, the first time refusal driver is still elligible for a work permit or limited license after only 15 days for the remainder of the one year revocation, if they choose not to particpate in the interlock program.


Highlights of the Law – Repeat DWI Offenses

If this is a second DWI offense under a BAC of .16 within ten years of the prior, you will have to install an IID or work through an entire year without a driver’s license. Previously, the revocation period was 6 months and the driver was elligible for a limited license after 90 days.
A driver with a second DWI offense of a BAC of .16 and above or refusal to submit to chemical testing will now face a two-year license revocation period as opposed to only one-year. During this period, a driver can regain full driving privileges by agreeing to have an ignition interlock device installed on the vehicle/s they drive.

Repeat DWI offenders, such as those who have had their third DWI offense or more within a ten year period since the first DWI or their third offense after a special review, will now have their drivers license revoked or canceled for three years as opposed to only one year. During this three year period, the driver can only drive while having the interlock device and being part of the program. In addition, the first year with the device will only be with a limited license. It’s not until the second and third years that the driver will be able to have full driving privileges on the interlock device.  

For those drivers who have been charged with their fourth or fifth DWI offense, the news gets even worse. These drivers, under the new law, are now looking at license revocation / cancellation periods of 4 or 6 years respectively. Furthermore, this driver will also have to install the interlock device in their car and be part of the program for the entire revocation / cancellation period. As with the third time DWI offender, the first year on the interlock program will only be with a limited license.

Lastly, with regard to the repeat DWI offender, in addition to the lengthy revocation/cancellation periods with the interlock device, they will also have to complete additional conditions before they are ever reinstated. These conditions include completion of a treatment program and verification of a successful 3 years of the interlock program. This will be followed by a 10 year restriction of no use of alcohol or any controlled substance. After 10 years, the driver can petition to have the no-use restriction removed, if they have remained compliant.


Facing a Minnesota DWI charge? Call Kans Law Firm, LLC today at (952) 835-6314 for a free case review and check how the new ignition interlock laws may apply to your case.


Ignition Interlock Device – How Does it Work?

An ignition interlock device is a breath analyzer that is installed and connected to your vehicle’s starting system. Every time you need to start the car, you’ll have to provide a breath sample to the apparatus which will be analyzed to determine blood alcohol levels. Once you’re cleared, you can then drive the vehicle as normal, although there will be random rolling tests while you’re operating the vehicle to see if you’re still alcohol-free. Note that the BAC limit with these devices is at .02, and a rating higher than that will prevent you from driving.

The IID records your breath test results driving information for each month of use, which will then be downloaded by your vendor during your monthly maintenance appointments. This information will then be reviewed by your probation officer or by Driver and Vehicle Services personnel of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety to monitor your compliance.

There are features like service lock outs if you fail to pass your breath tests or bring your vehicle in for service appointments with the vendor. There are also penalties for bypassing the device or cheating on the results.

For more information on the specifics of the program, visit the Minnesota Ignition Interlock Program website.


Should All Participate in the Program?

The new laws provide tougher sanctions, particularly in granting driving privileges, for those who choose not to take part in the ignition interlock program. But unless you have a long string of DWI offenses, participation on the program is still largely on a voluntary basis.
The benefits are apparent, in that you can regain your driving privileges almost immediately and avoid the costs of cab fares, for example, and the everyday hassle of getting from point A to B without your own vehicle.

However, the program is a binding commitment that may last for years, depending on your DWI offense. Its implementation is meant to prevent or at least discourage you from driving impaired in the future, but it won’t ever replace your own commitment to driving safely. Also, remember that every violation after you’ve joined the program will be easily recorded and used against you because of your agreement.

The full implications of these new measures will take some time before becoming truly apparent, but even at this juncture, it’s clear that the aggressiveness of this move is a sign of even harsher Minnesota DWI laws in the years to come.

At this point, you need to consult with a Minnesota DWI attorney before making a decision regarding the ignition interlock program in order to fully weigh the pros and cons for your specific situation.

For a free case review on your Minnesota DWI, call Kans Law Firm, LLC at (952) 835-6314 and ask to speak to our skilled DWI attorneys.

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