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New Drunk Driving Penalties for Minnesotans in 2011

New Drunk Driving Penalties for Minnesotans in 2011

Minnesota is known throughout the country as a tough state on drunk drivers; a conviction for driving while intoxicated can carry very stiff consequences in the North Star State. As of July 1, 2011, new additions to Minnesota’s DWI laws have expanded the range of sentencing options, especially for second and subsequent offenses and DUIs committed with a high alcohol content (AC).

Ignition Interlock Program Expanded

The Minnesota Ignition Interlock Device Program began as a pilot program in 2009. Now, it is a permanent addition to state law.

Under the rules that became effective July 1, certain drivers who have had their licenses revoked due to a DWI conviction will be able to bypass specified revocation periods through the installation of an ignition interlock device. Ignition interlocks will not allow a vehicle to start unless the driver passes an AC test. Drivers also must breathe into the device for a “rolling test” periodically during vehicle operation.

For first-time DUI offenders arrested with an AC of .16 or more and all second time offenders, participation in the program is an optional method of regaining driving privileges early. For offenders convicted of more serious DUI offenses whose driving privileges have been denied as “inimical to public safety,” enrollment in the program is required for three to six years in order to regain a full, unencumbered driver’s license.

While ignition interlock will allow many DWI offenders to get their driving privileges back more quickly, the expense may be prohibitive for some. Generally, the devices cost about $50 to install, and drivers must also pay a monthly monitoring fee of approximately $100. This means a first-time offender who tests .16 and is thus required to be on interlock for one year, or serve a one-year driver’s license revocation with no work permit for an entire year, would pay over $1,200 for the one year of being on ignition interlock in order to be able to legally drive and to stay employed, etc.

Other DWI Changes

In addition to setting forth the provisions of the ignition interlock program, the new legal updates lowered the high AC DWI civil (but not criminal) aggravating factor from .20 to .16 (those drivers, even first-time offenders, with a test result of .16 or higher will now face enhanced driver’s license penalties and license plate impoundment). License revocation periods for those caught with a high AC were raised, and revocation periods for repeat offenders were also drastically increased.

Contact a Minnesota DUI/DWI Defense Lawyer

Whether your DWI arrest occurred in Minneapolis, St. Paul or anywhere else in Minnesota, it is important to get in touch with an experienced, aggressive criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to protect your legal rights. Contact a criminal defense attorney today to help keep you out of jail and to protect your ongoing freedom to drive.

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