Will Penalties for DWI in Minnesota Get Harsher?

Tougher Minnesota DWI Laws on the Horizon

The Minnesota DWI Task Force is proposing tougher penalties for Minnesota’s drunken drivers. According to a Star Tribune article, the goal of these penalties is to encourage drivers to install an ignition interlock in their vehicles. According to the Star Tribune, studies show offenders who install ignition interlock devices are less likely to be arrested for a repeat offense. However, the cost of such devices is rather prohibitive.

They cost around $100 to install and $100 a month in additional fees. Recognizing this, Task Force Chair David Bernstein states “requiring ignition interlock for all offenders is impractical, in part because some don’t own cars or can’t afford the devices.” Despite this, one of the Task Force’s proposals is to extend plate impoundment for all drunken drivers and require those drivers to obtain ignition interlock before getting their plates back.

Some of the task force’s other proposals include:

  • Increasing penalties for drivers who continue to drive after being revoked for an alcohol-related offense;
  • Decreasing the legal limit for enhanced penalties – from a BAC of .20 to .16;
  • Making it easier for offenders to make partial payments on the $680 license reinstatement fee; and
  • Reducing the need for drivers who do install ignition interlock to pre-pay for a year of car insurance.

Interestingly Minnesota’s Impaired Driving Incidents have been declining since 2006. In 2006 there were 41,951 total incidents and in 2013 there were 25,719. However, the number of fatalities and injuries related to impaired driving, while overall lower than in 2006, doesn’t reflect a similar decline.

While these proposals are not law yet, they will certainly give legislatures and Minnesotans something to chew on in the upcoming legislative session.

Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said lawmakers are likely to consider the proposals, along with other potential reforms to the state’s drunken-driving laws. However, he has concerns about the expense and punitive consequences for first-time offenders.

“For most people, those are errors in judgment,” he said. “They’re certainly dangerous, but in most cases, they’re only one-time errors. There are huge financial consequences and most people learn their lesson just by going through the process.”

An Experienced Minnesota DWI Attorney Can Help

When you are arrested in Minnesota for DWI, you will be given an opportunity to contact a DWI attorney for a consultation. But, because refusal is a crime, a Minnesota DWI attorney is not permitted to instruct clients to refuse the test. In other words, criminal defense attorneys are not allowed to counsel a client to commit a crime. However, it is still best to take advantage of the opportunity to contact a Minnesota DWI lawyer. A DWI attorney can advise you on what possible consequences you are facing and what steps you can take to ensure the reliability of the blood alcohol test. For instance, an experienced Minnesota DWI attorney might recommend privately obtaining a separate test at your own expense.

Our Minneapolis and St. Paul DWI lawyers understand that being arrested for DWI can be scary and the criminal justice system is complex. Use the time you are given to contact a criminal defense attorney for advice on how to conduct yourself, how long you can expect to be held, and what steps you should take once released from jail.