In 2011, a Minnesota woman rushed to her vehicle to escape her drunk and abusive husband. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, she said that she felt she had no other choice than to flee. After driving less than a mile, she was arrested on charges of driving under the influence with a blood alcohol content of 0.16, which is twice the legal limit. The woman lost her license as a result of the conviction, which she challenged on the grounds that she was fleeing for her life. The state supreme court disagreed in a divided decision.
The young woman’s situation reflects a growing trend across the country, as problematic relationships and other factors play a part in women deciding to get behind the wheel while intoxicated. Mothers Against Drunk Driving reports that across the state of Minnesota, more than 28,000 people are arrested every year on charges of drunk driving. Statistics show that women are increasingly contributing to that number.
The driving forces
The FBI recently released a report showing that nationwide, between 2003 and 2012, there was a 21 percent increase in the number of women charged with driving under the influence. In Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety reported that women accounted for roughly 25 percent of all DWI offenses in 2012, which was a 5 percent increase from 2002 statistics.
Authors of the FBI report noted that there are several factors that have caused the increase:
- It is more socially acceptable for women to drink in public than it used to be.
- More women are in the workforce, meaning more women are driving during peak DUI arrest times.
- There are fewer first-time offender diversion programs as states implement stricter penalties.
Lastly, one researcher found that a troublesome event preceded many instances of female DUI arrests. Relationship issues and work-related stress, for example, were found to play a key role in women drinking and driving.
Consequences of DUI
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety reports that the majority of people charged with driving while impaired are first-time offenders, accounting for 60 percent of the state’s convictions. In 2011, legislators passed a law stating that first-time offenders who had more than two times the legal limit of alcohol in their system must have an ignition interlock installed on their vehicles.
Anyone facing a first-time DUI conviction in the state could face as much as a one-year license suspension, $1,000 fine and even up to 90 days in jail. A single conviction could cost as much as $20,000 when factoring in court costs, insurance premiums and other fees. Building a strong DUI defense immediately can lead to reduced or even dismissed charges. Anyone facing such charges should contact a defense attorney as soon as possible.