Minnesota legislators recently passed numerous laws aimed at increasing penalties and punishments for individuals who are caught driving under the influence. The new DWI laws are set to go into effect on July 1 of this year. This movement by state lawmakers reportedly comes as a response to what critics have claimed was “a public policy that took a lax attitude toward drunken driving.”
According to reports, at least one in 17 Minnesota drivers has been arrested and convicted of two or more DWI offenses. One Minnesota resident was recently convicted of his 20th DWI offense. He was sentenced to one year in prison, a sentence that many other states dole out for a second offense. In many other areas throughout the country, repeat offenders often have their driver’s license revoked or suspended after a second or third offense.
Prior to Minnesota’s enactment of stricter drunk driving laws in 2002, when a fourth offense within 10 years become a felony DWI, repeat DWI offenders typically spent a relatively short amount of time in jail, paid a fine and were released. And now, after July, punishments get more severe. Some of the major changes in the law include required ignition interlock systems for all repeat DWI’s and first-time offenders with BAC levels of 0.16 percent or more. Those who refuse a DWI test or violate the terms of the interlock device will lose driving rights for one to six years. While Ignition Interlock is not mandatory under the new law for most offenders, those who choose to do without it face doubled Revocation periods compared to the old law. And the driver who does not go on Ignition Interlock will find that he/she cannot get a Work Permit for the entire Revocation period! (except for first-time offenders who test below .16)
Some critics believe that these new laws do not go far enough in punishing repeat DWI offenders. They are concerned that the ignition interlock devices can be circumvented too easily. However, lawmakers feel that the new laws are sufficiently strict without removing the ability of offenders to drive to work and continue to support themselves and their families.
Star Tribune: “Minnesota raising the stakes for drunken drivers,” Jim Anderson, 31 May 2011