Ignition Interlock Helps in Prevention of Multiple Minnesota DWIs

Less than one percent of drivers who have used the ignition interlock device after being convicted of DWI have reoffended since the program was implemented statewide.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office released these results in August.

The ignition interlock program was started in July 2011 and so far nearly 11,000 DWI offenders have used the device. Of the nearly 11,000 who have used the device, over 3,000 of them have graduated from the program by using the device for the required time period without reoffending. At this time, there are nearly 7,000 people with the ignition interlock in their vehicles.

The way the device works is it is connected to the automobile’s starter. Before the driver can start their vehicle, they must blow into the device, which measures the blood alcohol content a person may or may not have. If their blood alcohol content is over .02 percent, then the car will not start and the information is then recorded so that it can be transmitted to the monitoring authority.

Sometimes the interlock device gives a “false positive” reading alcohol and this requires the defendant have an experienced Minnesota DWI attorney working with them to prove that alcohol was not responsible.

The DWI offender has the choice to use the ignition interlock device in order to keep their driving privileges after a DWI conviction. But the offender to pay for the device, its installation, and its maintenance. The goal of the device is to keep individuals from repeating their mistake and it is proving to be effective.

First-time DWI offenders with a blood alcohol content of .16 percent and above, as well as repeat offenders, must use the interlock device to regain their driving privileges. If they do not opt for the device, then they cannot legally drive for a minimum of one year.

For example,offenders with more than three offenses are required to use the interlock device for three to six years or they cannot regain their driving privileges.

It is expected that the state could see over 20,000 DWI offenders eligible for the interlock device sanctions in any 12 month period. The cost to have the interlock device is about $3 to $4 per day.

Some of the features of the device include:

  • Rolling re-tests, which require the driver to submit a breath sample up to five minutes after they start the automobile and then randomly after that.
  • In-car cameras to verify that the correct person is submitting the breath sample.
  • There are “suck back” or hum patterns that are required during breath testing.
  • Users must have their interlock device calibrated each month by an authorized service provider. The providers then run reports that show how many times the vehicle has been started, how many rolling re-tests have been conducted, and when the test has been failed.
  • Service providers are required to send the reports to the Department of Public Safety for review. Any fails could result in extended sanctions or other consequences.

In Minneapolis and St. Paul, usage of the ignition interlock reduced the number of repeat offenses during the latest DWI crackdown that occurred in the area and statewide. The device has also been credited with reducing the number of accidents in the area.