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Ignition Interlock

Recently, the House introduced two bills that would drastically increase the use of ignition interlock[1] devices across Minnesota. HF 1112 aims to require ignition interlock for all DWI offenses; and, HF 2690 would do so for all repeat DWI offenders. The latter seems more realistic, while the former is overly optimistic.

Currently, Minnesota only requires drivers to use ignition interlock if they have a canceled license. A canceled DL results from at least three DWIs in a lifetime. In those situations, a driver must install ignition interlock and drive for at least three years before gaining an unrestricted license back. Other DWI scenarios currently allow drivers to install ignition interlock to allow them to legally drive, but it is not a requirement. These scenarios include a first-time DWI offender who tests at least twice the legal limit;[2] a driver with at least two DWIs within a ten-year period; and drivers with at least three DWIs in a lifetime.[3]

HF 1112 would dramatically increase the number of drivers seeking to install ignition interlock by making it a requirement for ALL people who get a DWI and want to get their license back. Currently, a first-time DWI offender who tests under .16 only serves thirty to ninety days without their license. Under HF 1112, that same first-timer would serve one year without their regular license and the only way they could get it back would be to install ignition interlock. Additionally, this bill would make a first-time canceled driver (three DWIs in ten years) install ignition interlock for five years instead of the current three-year period. While not many will argue with stricter penalties for repeat offenders, the drastic increase for first-time DWI offenders will likely setup this bill to fail.

HF 2690 is gaining more traction at the Capitol. This past week, the House Public Safety Committee passed the bill and referred it to the Transportation Committee. If eventually passed, it will go into effect August 1st of this year. This bill mandates the use of ignition interlock for repeat offenders to gain their normal driver’s licenses back. Currently, those obtaining a second DWI in ten years do not have to get ignition interlock to get their driver’s license back. They may choose to simply wait out the revocation period and then apply for reinstatement. If passed, HF 2690 mandates ignition interlock for repeat offenders to gain reinstatement.

If either bill passes, the ignition interlock industry is sure to win. It is already an increasingly popular industry across the nation; and in Minnesota since 2011 when it was introduced. If the industry keeps profiting, bills proposing increased usage of the device are not likely to slow down any time in the near future.

Robert H. Ambrose is a DWI attorney and criminal defense lawyer in St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota. For the past two years, Attorney Ambrose was named one of the “Ten Best” DWI Attorneys for Client Satisfaction in Minnesota. DWI lawyers St. Paul MN; St. Paul MN criminal defense lawyer; and Minneapolis DWI attorney.

[1] Minn. Stat. § 171.306 details Minnesota’s ignition interlock device program, which requires drivers to blow into a breathalyzer device before their vehicle will start and pass rolling tests periodically as they drive their car. If a driver blows into the device and it registers an alcohol concentration of .02 or more, the vehicle will not start. To access a list of frequently asked questions about ignition interlock, please visit the Department of Public Safety’s website page here.

[2] Read our blog post here about Minnesota’s new DWI law going into effect in August 2015, which makes it more severe for those testing at least twice the legal limit.

[3] For a full list of license revocation periods, see Minn. Stat. § 169A.52.

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