New Laws Bring Consequences and Hope to Minnesotans Charged With DUI

New DWI laws going into effect on July 1, 2011 will impose stiffer penalties on individuals charged with driving while impaired while offering an incentive to stay on the straight and narrow. The law will provide offenders with an alternative to license revocation in an effort to balance the interests of public safety with the need to provide offenders with a means of getting to work.

Minnesota Ignition Interlock Program

The Ignition Interlock Program, which was introduced as a pilot project in 2009, offers a carrot to those charged with driving under the influence. Drivers using the interlock system are given restricted licenses, allowing them to work while circumventing the traditional license revocation periods for their offense.

The program consists of a device being installed onto the ignition of the offender's car, which measures the driver's blood alcohol content (BAC). The car cannot be started without blowing into the device and will not start at all if it measures a blood alcohol level of .02 or greater.

The program offers an incentive, which is readily apparent to first-time offenders. Presently, individuals charged for their first time, who have blood alcohol concentrations between .08 and .19, can anticipate a mandatory 90 day suspension of their license. They must wait 15 days to apply for a work permit. The new law will allow the individual charged to drive right away provided they participate in the interlock program.

Violations of Interlock Program

Tampering with the device by bypassing, circumventing, assisting someone in removing it or driving another vehicle without the device attached is prohibited. If a program participant's blood alcohol content reaches .02 or more or they tamper with the device they are guilty of a misdemeanor.

There is an exception for disabling the device if the car is being repaired or there is an emergency as long as the offender does not drive the vehicle.

The first violation of the program extends the revocation period for the offender's license by 180 days. The second extends the license revocation to one year. For any violations over that an additional 545 days of revocation is tacked on to the total revocation period.

The Cost of Privilege

The downside for the interlock program is its cost. Presently, the device costs approximately $60 to $125 per month to administer, not including installation costs, depending on who is offering the device. This may be a convenient for offenders who have jobs, but for those out of work and searching for employment, finding the funds to participate in the interlock program may stretch an already strained budget too far.

Aggravating Factor Enhancements

In addition to the interlock program, the new legislation will lower the bar on a key aggravating factor, increasing the likelihood that an individual arrested for driving under the influence will be charged with a more serious offense and face harsher punishment. In Minnesota, aggravating factors to a driving while intoxicated offense are as follows:

  • A prior DUI conviction within the past 10 years
  • Driving under the influence with a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle
  • A blood alcohol concentration of .20 or greater
  • A prior alcohol-related revocation of license within the past 10 years.

The new law will lower the blood alcohol concentration factor from .20 to .16.

Driver's License Revocation Periods Change

The greatest changes coming on July 1 st will be to the duration of license revocation. First time offenders who refuse to test will have their license revoked for two years rather than one. If a driver charged for the first time has a BAC reading over .16, they will not be able to apply for a work permit and their license will be revoked for a year. The only way for them to legally drive is to participate in the interlock program.

For second time offenders who refuse to test or whose BAC exceeds .16 will lose their license for two years. These drivers will be permitted to drive if they participate in interlock.

The new law will prevent any person who is charged with at least three driving under the influence offenses within 10 years from reinstating their driver's licenses without participating in the interlock program. They will be granted a limited license or "work license" for at least the first year of the participation with the interlock program and have their full license privileges restored for the following years.

Individuals charged with their third DUI within 10 years will have their driving privileges revoked for 3 years. Offenders charged with driving while intoxicated for their fourth time within 10 years time will have their licenses revoked for 4 years. People charged with their fifth offense within 10 years will have their licenses revoked for 6 years.

The Importance of Good Legal Representation

With so much at stake, it is crucial you hire an experienced local attorney if you are facing charges of driving under the influence. A lawyer can be a strong advocate for you and will explain your options to you at each step of the legal process.