With the goal of keeping people who drink and drive off state roadways, a new law requires use of an ignition interlock device in some instances. It also provides a way for people with a B-Card license to get the restriction removed.
Effective July 1, 2011, repeat DWI offenders and first-time offenders whose alcohol concentration is at least double the legal limit will have to use an ignition interlock device to legally drive in the state. The law is a statewide expansion of a successful pilot program in Hennepin and Beltrami counties.
The device is installed in motor vehicles to prevent them from being started if a driver’s breath exceeds a preset breath-alcohol content limit, which will be 0.02 percent. The vehicle will not start if the limit is exceeded. A driver would also have to breathe into the device at certain times once the vehicle is started. If a driver fails a test, the vehicle would shut down. A driver with a BAC of 0.08 percent or greater is considered legally drunk. Device features deter others from starting the vehicle.
Under the law, first-time offenders whose alcohol concentration is below twice the legal limit will have a choice of getting a restricted license, as is in current law, or getting full driving privileges provided they use the ignition interlock device.
The waiting period before issuance of a limited license to multiple DWI offenders is eliminated; however, time using the ignition interlock is increased by the number of offenses up to six years for five or more offenses no matter the BAC level.
DWI offenders whose alcohol concentration is 0.16 percent or greater who choose not to use ignition interlock will lose driving privileges for up to six years depending on the offense level. Repeat offenders under 0.16 percent also must go on ignition interlock or they cannot drive legally.
Ignition interlock users would lease the device for an estimated $100 a month for the device and monitoring; although the Department of Public Safety will look for ways to lower the cost for indigent people.
All but three states have some type of ignition interlock law. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, about 146,000 ignition interlock devices are in use nationwide.
The law also permits a holder of a B-Card to apply to have the no-alcohol restriction removed if the person has not violated the abstinence condition for the past 10 years. A B-Card is issued to a multiple-DWI offender who wants to keep driving and pledges not to drink any alcohol. The no-alcohol restriction is on the card.
Rep. Karla Bigham (DFL-Cottage Grove) and Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing) are the law’s sponsors.
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