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Minnesota DWI Law Update: Increased Penalties Coming July 1, 2011

What is changing July 1, 2011?

Minnesota is enacting new DWI laws starting on July 1, 2011.  These laws will enhance existing DWI laws by increasing penalties and requiring ignition interlock for most repeat offenders.  Here are the areas of DWI law that will be affected:

Increased Driver’s License Revocation Periods

Under the old law, a person’s driver’s license would be revoked for a year if the person refused a DWI test.  Now, driver’s licenses will be revoked for a period from 1-6 years based on the number of prior offenses the person has had.  In addition, most revocation periods for failing a DWI test have been increased, with the maximum period being 6 years.  So, DWI offenders will have to make do without a driver’s license for longer periods that substantially increase with each new offense.

Aggravated BAC lowered from 0.20 to 0.16

Under the old law, a DWI was aggravated if the person had a BAC over 0.20.  The new laws have enhanced penalties if the person has twice the legal limit, or 0.16.  This change will make a larger number of people subject to enhanced DWI penalties.

Elimination of Limited License for Repeat Offenders

Under the old laws, a person could get a limited license or work permit to allow limited driving before they could get a full license reinstated.  Under the new laws, only a first-time offender is eligible for a limited license.  Repeat offenders must use the ignition interlock program to receive driving privileges before the end of the revocation period.

Ignition Interlock Program

An ignition interlock device won’t allow a car to start if it detects an alcohol concentration higher than 0.02.  The new laws will allow a person to receive a restricted license during the revocation period.  Under the restricted license, a person can only use a vehicle with an ignition interlock installed, except in very limited circumstances.  Tampering with the ignition interlock will result in additional periods of revocation.

What is the effect of the new laws?

These new laws will substantially punish repeat DWI offenders by lengthening driver’s license revocation periods.  More people will use the ignition interlock system in order to be able to drive before the revocation period ends.  However, ignition interlock systems carry a monthly expense and will add to the financial penalties a DWI causes.  In addition, a person will be restricted from driving vehicles that are not equipped with an ignition interlock system.

DWI penalties are continually increasing in Minnesota.  It is more important than ever that a person faced with a DWI charge obtains a good DWI lawyer to ensure they receive a quality defense.  If you are facing DWI charges, contact Eric Rice at (651) 998-9660 or to set up a free consultation and learn about your options.