LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Christopher Wesley Keyser | Jul 8, 2011

Minnesota's Ignition Interlock Program & New 2011 DWI Laws

Effective July 1, 2011, Minnesota's DWI penalties and drivers license santions changed to promote safety and reduce the amount of alcohol-related deaths and injuries on the road.

Quick Overview of DWI Law Changes:

· Lowers alcohol-level for enhanced sanctions from 0.20 to 0.16

· Lengthens revocation time periods BUT allows earlier reinstatement of driving privileges with the installation of the “ignition interlock" device

· New laws will most significantly affect first- time offenders with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.16 or more and repeat DWI offender

· Targets high risk driver

· Creates a pathway for legal driving

What are the new Minnesota DWI laws?

Effective July 1, 2011, Minnesota enacted new DWI and drivers license penalties to promote public safety and reduce alcohol-related death and injuries. For DWI defendants, the new laws carry strengthened penalties. Here is a brief summary of the changes:

· First-time DWI offenders with an alcohol-concentration level of 0.16 or more and all repeat DWI offenders are required to have ignition interlock devices installed on any vehicles they drive.

· First-time DWI offenders with an alcohol-concentration level of 0.16 or more and all repeat DWI offenders who choose not to use ignition interlocks will not have driving privileges ranging from one (1) year to six (6) years, depending on offense level.

· Interlock users will regain full driving privileges immediately after the offense, ensuring they are driving with a valid license and not a threat on the roadway.

· Interlocks will be used to monitor chronic DWI offenders to verify reinstatement requirements.

Minnesota Driver’s License Administrative Sanctions Initiative

The Minnesota Driver’s License Administrative Sanctions (MN DLAS) Initiative Purpose aims to reduce impaired driving fatalities and injuries while increasing the number of safe and legal drivers. The MN DLAS recommendations and findings include:

  1. Reduce the alcohol concentration level that triggers enhanced DLAS from 0.20 to 0.16

  2. Lengthen the revocation time for first and second time DWI offenders

  3. Update sanctions for people that are cancelled as "inimical to public safety" (three offenses in 10 years or 4 in a lifetime)

  4. Provide effective chemical health screens and assessments

  5. Encourage the use of effective technology including the ignition interlock device

  6. Focus enhanced consequence on people who continue to drive after their driving privileges have been withdrawn due to risky driving behavior

  7. Determine effective programs that achieve long-term behavior change and assure statewide access (such as DWI courts and cognitive-based education)

What is the “Ignition Interlock" Device?

An ignition interlock device is a machine connected to a vehicle’s electrical system which can test a motorist’s blood-alcohol content level before driving. A driver is prevented from starting their car if the device detects alcohol on their breath

How does the Ignition Interlock device work?

The driver breathes into the device for two to five seconds. If the driver’s blood-alcohol level is 0.02 or more, the car will not start. The device will indicate whether the driver has passed or failed.

While on the road, a driver must retake the test at random intervals. If the driver fails the test and the device registers a “fail," the device will ask the user to take the vehicle in for early calibration.

How are the Ignition Interlock results monitored?

Every month, data from the device is monitored to see:

· Whether and when the driver committed violations

· Whether the system was tampered with or disconnected

How much does the Ignition Interlock device cost?

· $50.00 installation fee

· $100.00 per month calibration

· $50.00 removal fee

License Revocation Time Periods

For first (1st) and second (2nd) time offenses, full driving privileges will be granted with installation of the ignition interlock device. For third (3rd), fourth (4th), fifth (5th) and subsequent violations, limited driving privileges are available for the 1st year of revocation and full driving privileges are available for the remaining period of time where abstinence is demonstrated, as measured by ignition interlock.

Three (3) Month Revocation:

· First time offender with AC less than 0.16

One (1) Year Revocation:

· First time offenders with AC of 0.16 or greater

· First time offender who refuses to test

· Second time offenders with AC less than 01.6

Two (2) Year Revocation:

· Second time offenders with AC of 0.16 or greater

Three (3) Year Revocation:

· Third offense

· One (1) year limited license provided with the use of ignition interlock

· Two (2) years full driving privileges with use of ignition interlock

Four (4) Year Revocation:

· Fourth offense

· One (1) year limited license provided with the use of ignition interlock

· Three (3) years full driving privileges with use of ignition interlock

Five (5) Year Revocation:

· Fifth offense

· One (1) year limited license provided with the use of ignition interlock

· Five (5) years full driving privileges with use of ignition interlock

New Statutory Violations

Minn. Stat. §171.09, Subd. 1(d)(2): “It is a misdemeanor for a person who holds a restricted license issued under section 171.306 to drive, operate or be in physical control of any motor vehicle that is not equipped with a functioning ignition interlock device certified by the commissioner."

Minn. Stat. §171.306, Subd. 6(a): “It is a misdemeanor for a person to lend, rent or lease a motor vehicle that is not equipped with a functioning ignition interlock device certified by the commissioner to a person with a restricted ignition interlock driver license."

Minn. Stat. §171.306, Subd. 6(b): “It is a misdemeanor for a person to tamper with, circumvent or bypass the ignition interlock device, or assists another to do so."

DWI Mandatory Minimums under Minn. Stat. §169A.275

If a certain offense carries a mandatory minimum jail sentence, the judge can disregard that mandatory minimum if he or she orders the defendant to use the ignition interlock device. Here is the specific language:

Minn. Stat. §169A.275, Subd. 7: “A judge is not required to sentence a person [to the mandatory minimums for a DWI offense under §169A.275, Subd. (1) – (4)] if the judge requires the person as a condition of probation to drive only motor vehicles equipped with an ignition interlock device meeting the standards described in section 171.306."

“B Card" Significant Changes

The holder of a B-Card can apply to have the no-alcohol restriction removed from their driving record and driver’s license if the person has not violated the “abstinence condition" for the past ten (10) years.

If a person violates the “any use of alcohol or drugs invalidates license" restriction by committing any offense that is NOT a DWI, then the person will receive:

· 1 year of ignition interlock

· Chemical health assessment and comply with the requirements

Criminal Defense & DWI Attorneys

Because the new DWI laws and drivers license sanctions are harsher than before, it is important to not only understand the changes but be aware of how a criminal defense attorney can help. The simple truth is that it is virtually impossible to "beat" a DWI case without the representation of a Minnesota DWI defense lawyer.

Christopher Keyser is a criminal defense attorney in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He can be reached directly at (612) 338-5007 and [email protected].

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