Zach Bauer: How new DUI law impacts Minnesota [Podcast]

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Zach Bauer: How new DUI law impacts Minnesota [Podcast]

On August 1st, a new DUI law took affect in Minnesota that tightens the restrictions on intoxicated drivers. The law brings a fundamental change for Minnesota drivers, making it more important than ever that they think before getting behind the wheel after drinking. Recently, Meshbesher & Spence’s Zach Bauer stopped by KROC FM to discuss what Minnesotans need to know about the new DUI law.

The Changing Law
Has the legal limit changed? The blood alcohol level to be considered “driving under the influence” remains .08. However, what the law does change is the blood alcohol limit required to qualify as an “aggravating factor.” Previously, if a driver blew a .20 or higher, the consequences attached to that offense were significantly higher. Under the new laws, that level decreases to .16. So now if a driver in Minnesota blows .16 or higher, the consequences will be higher.
Do we know how many people this will affect? I think recent statistics have shown that the average first-time DUI offender registers between a .14 and .15 in a breathalyzer test. Those statistics mentioned more than 5,000 first-time offenders who would have faced aggravated sanctions in the past three years if these laws had been in place.
What is the difference in sanctions between someone who registers .08 and .16? On a first-time offense where someone blew .10, for instance, that person would face a maximum of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. For .16 or higher on that same first-time offense, the fine would increase to a maximum of $3,000 and a year in jail. That’s quadruple the jail time and triple the fines. Additionally, when someone blows a .16 or higher, that person will be held until it’s time to see the judge. Those are called mandatory release conditions.

What does that mean for offenders? The legislature says that any type of third-time offense in a ten-year period requires the offender be held until he can see the judge. If it’s an aggravating offense, which is now .16 in DUI cases, even if it’s the first time the person has ever been arrested, he’ll have to wait until the judge can see him. This means if he’s arrested on a Saturday night, he’ll have to stay in jail until Monday morning when the judge returns to work. For a first-time DUI offense without aggravating factors, the person would stay in jail for only one or two hours, typically.

What happens when a DUI offender finally comes in front of the judge? When a person with a blood alcohol level of .16 or above sees the judge, there are only two ways he’ll be able to get out of jail. One will be by agreeing to go on an alcohol sensor, which means they’ll have their blood alcohol levels monitored daily. That will cost about $20 a day. Another will be to post a $12,000 unconditional bail. It’s far cheaper to simply call a cab if you’re too intoxicated to drive.
What happens when a DUI offender finally comes in front of the judge? When a person with a blood alcohol level of .16 or above sees the judge, there are only two ways he’ll be able to get out of jail. One will be by agreeing to go on an alcohol sensor, which means they’ll have their blood alcohol levels monitored daily. That will cost about $20 a day. Another will be to post a $12,000 unconditional bail. It’s far cheaper to simply call a cab if you’re too intoxicated to drive.
Is DUI a serious problem in Minnesota? I looked up the numbers the other day and Minnesota is the 11th highest in total DUIs in the nation. We have the eighth-highest DUI rate per capita. Our recidivism rate, which refers to the number of people who pick up a second offense after a first-time DUI arrest, is more than 40 percent. What the legislature was looking to do was to try to strengthen those DUI laws to send a message to people to try to keep that lower.
Why do you feel it’s so high? North Dakota and South Dakota are higher than us per capita. Wisconsin is higher, but just barely. I believe part of it is the lack of transit systems when compared to places like Maryland or New York. Illinois has one of the lowest rates in the nation just by having one of the highest populations in the country.
How does a person know when he’s reached the limit? It can differ from one person to another. When you’re at .16 and you’re an average six-foot male, 200 pounds, you’re going to have consumed probably five to six to seven drinks over a period of three to four hours to get to that level. A female of lesser weight can achieve .16 much more quickly. If in doubt, it’s best to call a cab. It just isn’t worth the risk.
If you have questions about the new DUI laws, contact Zach Bauer at Meshbesher & Spence, 507.280.8090.
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