History of impaired driving legislation goes back to the 60s
Published 4:56 pm Saturday, December 6, 2014
QUESTION: I know that in December Minnesota Law Enforcement has extra police officers enforcing impaired driving laws. What is the history of impaired driving legislation in the state?
ANSWER: In 1961, Minnesota passed the civil “Implied Consent” law; by driving on a public roadway, a person by implication gives consent to a test for alcohol when stopped by the police for probable cause of impairment. If the driver refuses the test, the state can revoke the driver’s license for six months.
In 1971, the criminal law was amended to stipulate that having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10 percent or higher was not just evidence of intoxication, but was in itself a crime when driving. (In 2005, the state reduced the legal blood alcohol concentration level when driving to below 0.08 percent.)
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In 1976, Minnesota became the first state to pass an “administrative per se” law, authorizing the state to revoke a driver’s license for refusal to take the alcohol test or for “failing” the test.
Thus Minnesota pioneered the “two-track system.” The state revokes the driver’s license if a person fails or refuses the test, even if the person is found not guilty of the criminal DWI charge. Likewise, a court can find a person guilty of impaired driving even in the absence of a test failure or refusal. The complexity of the law often causes more than one violation to be recorded on a person’s driving record for a single incident.
In 2013, an average of 70 drivers per day were arrested for DWI and 41 percent of these violators had at least one prior DWI. It’s the reason there are “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” extra enforcement campaigns.
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