Despite DWI arrests in Minnesota decreasing for eight years in a row, Minnesota law enforcement remains focused on cracking down on drunk driving. 2014 experienced a 40% decline in DWI, resulting in approximately 25,258 arrests and 88 deaths from alcohol-fueled accidents. Minnesota police departments from counties and cities across the state have added an arsenal of new tools to assist them with continuing to fight DWI drivers.
This year, agencies in twelve different locations throughout Minnesota have received special grants from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA awarded millions of dollars to the Minnesota Department of Safety and Office of Traffic Safety, which in turn will be funding local law enforcement agencies. These police departments include the Minneapolis Police Department, as well as St. Cloud Police Department, Duluth Police Department, Richfield Police Department, Lakeville Police Department, New Brighton Police Department, Hopkins Police Department, Olmstead Police Department, and four other police agencies.
Each police department will receive $160,000 to $200,000. The funds will pay for twelve full-time DWI police officers who will focus exclusively on drunk driving infractions. In addition to having an officer dedicated to DWI enforcement, the agencies will also have DWI checkpoints and other officers assisting on periodic dates, such as New Year’s Eve.
According to the new Coon Rapids Police Department’s DWI officer Adam Jacobson, “I’m looking for people who are either weaving within their lane, making sudden and unexpected braking, speeding up, slowing down, how they make a turn – somebody makes a really wide or really sharp turn that could sometimes be a clue someone has been drinking.”
The NHTSA grant covers DWI enforcement for the next four years and will pay for the officers’ salaries, police cars, and other expenses. The officers will be mostly working during evenings, rush hours, and heavy drinking holidays.
In addition, the state of Minnesota has begun partnering with surrounding states in enforcing DWI laws. For instance, this past Labor Day, South Dakota and Iowa operated a tri-state drunk driving campaign with Minnesota. The three states worked together, sharing resources to enforce state DWI laws and arrest those suspected of drunk driving on the holiday. In addition, as part of the tri-state partnership, the three states have begun an awareness campaign designed to educate residents on the dangers of drunk driving and how to stay safe. According to Minnesota Department of Public Safety Captain Bruce Verdoes, “We’re developing partnerships across our borders to work on the same commonality – the problem with people being impaired while they drive. If we can get the word out and reach across the borders and help each other out, that’s what we’re here for.”
The agencies will be working alongside the NHTSA’s national campaign in order to educate state residents and enforce DWI laws. During busy holiday weekends, the three states will be working together to reduce the incidence of drunk driving, as well as drunk driving-related accidents.
In addition, based on lobbying from advocacy groups and police departments, the Minnesota legislature lowered the gross misdemeanor DWI threshold from .20 blood alcohol concentration percentage (BAC) to .16. This can increase the number of gross misdemeanor arrests by 71% (or more than 3,000 arrests than last year). Gross misdemeanor DWI is punishable by up to one year in jail, $3,000 in fines, high bail bond amounts, increased car insurance premiums, and stricter penalties for any future DWIs a driver may receive. A BAC of 0.16 is associated with 40% of all alcohol-fueled accidents. In addition, over 5,000 drivers were arrested with BACs over .16.
If you were charged with driving under the influence in Minneapolis, it is imperative that you consult with a Minneapolis DWI defense attorney at the Kans Law Firm, LLC. To speak with a skilled criminal defense lawyer today, call us at (952) 835-6314 to schedule a free appointment.