Ask a Trooper: Drunk driving laws date back to 1911
by Sgt. Jesse Grabow
QUESTION: How long has there been a drunk driving law in Minnesota?
ANSWER: The Minnesota Legislature criminalized DWI in 1911, making “driving while in an intoxicated manner” a misdemeanor. The laws and sanctions addressing DWI have certainly evolved in the past 103 years.
The strengthened efforts are successfully working to get drunk drivers off the roads:
– Evidence of influence was set at .15 Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) in 1917.
– The first civil sanctions for DWI (Implied Consent) began in 1961.
– A per se level of .10 BAC was attached to administrative license sanctions in 1971 (MN was the first state to take such action).
– The concept of BAC changed to Alcohol Concentration (AC) in 1978.
– License plate impoundment began in 1988.
– Test refusal becomes a criminal offense in 1989.
– Child Endangerment enhancement and ‘Not a Drop’ law enacted in 1993.
– High AC (.20+) added as an enhancement in 1997.
– Felony level penalties established in 2001.
– Per se level lowered to .08 AC in 2004.
– Ignition Interlock added in 2010.
Minnesota’s enhanced DWI enforcement and education efforts are contributing to the reduction of alcohol-related deaths. Still, drunk driving remains a serious threat, with 279 drunk driving-related traffic deaths in Minnesota since 2011 and 25,719 motorists arrested for DWI last year.
One in seven Minnesota drivers has a DWI on record.
The legal limit for driving impaired in Minnesota is 0.08 — but motorists can be arrested for DWI at lower levels. The consequences for driving impaired will vary for each DWI offender.
A typical penalty for a first-time offender is loss of license for a minimum of 30 days up to a year and possible jail time. DWI costs can be as high as $20,000 when factoring court costs, legal fees and increased insurance premiums.
A portion of state statutes were used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes.
If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Trp. Jesse Grabow – Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205. (You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at, [email protected]).