Minnesota Ignition Interlock Program Turns One, Highlights DWI Laws

July 2012 marks the one-year anniversary of Minnesota’s DWI ignition interlock program. An ignition interlock is a device affixed to a vehicle that will not allow it to start unless the driver provides a breath sample and his or her blood alcohol level registers below a preset limit (in Minnesota, .02, the equivalent of about one drink). Ignition interlocks also require drivers to provide periodic breath samples while operating their vehicles.

A first-time DWI offense at a blood alcohol concentration of 0.16 or above and all repeat DWI offenses are very serious under Minnesota law. Part of the punishment for these offenses is the loss of your driver’s license for one year or more. However, since July 1, 2011, Minnesotans charged with DWI have been able to regain their driving privileges much more quickly by agreeing to the use of an ignition interlock.

In the first year of Minnesota’s statewide ignition interlock program, 2,796 DWI offenders took advantage of it and were able to regain early legal driving privileges.

Officials are hopeful that Minnesota’s ignition interlock program will continue to be successful into its second year. As the program matures, authorities are also stepping up DWI enforcement; a law enforcement crackdown was scheduled in July to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the ignition interlock program.

July also marks the closing of a legal loophole that may result in more drivers installing ignition interlocks. Formerly, a first-time DWI offender arrested with an alcohol concentration (AC) between .16 and .199 could plead guilty and get his or her driver’s license back in just 30 days without having to apply for the ignition interlock program. But, according to the Department of Public Safety, this was actually an oversight in the original law. It has since been rectified in the 2012 Transportation Omnibus bill, and first-time DWI offenders with a high AC arrested after June 30, 2012, will now have no options to regain their driving privileges beyond an ignition interlock.

A DWI charge is difficult to overcome if you cannot drive afterwards — work, school, family obligations, even day-to-day chores can be all but impossible without transportation. But, Minnesota’s ignition interlock program is one tool that can help you get over a DWI. Call a Minnesota DWI attorney today to learn more about the ignition interlock program and how it might play into a successful drunk driving defense.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

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