It was summer and a woman went out with some friends in New Hope to have some drinks. She knew by the end of the night that she had had too much to drink and that driving home was not a good idea.
When she was in her early 20s, the woman had racked up three DWI offenses in Minneapolis. She didn’t want to do this again; she wanted to be responsible.
Instead of driving home, the woman and her friends took a taxi. While they were waiting on the taxi, they were smoking cigarettes and enjoying music. Just after a few minutes, a police officer was knocking on her window, asking her to get out of the car and take field sobriety tests. She failed the tests.
When she took the breath test, she blew a .10.
She said she kept explaining to the officer that she was not driving and that she and her friends were not going anywhere until a taxi got there. She told the officer the taxi would be there any minute.
This didn’t matter. She had been behind the wheel of the car and her blood alcohol concentration according to the breathalyzer was over the legal limit. Because she had “physical control of the vehicle,” she could be charged with DWI under Minnesota’s DWI law. This caused her to be taken to jail and booked for her fourth DWI, which means she was charged with a felony that has a potential of 7 years in prison.
This is one of the reasons why the current strategy that is used is an effective one. The strategy seems to be to bust as many people as possible, which seems to be working. It is working so well that the legal system is packed full of DWI cases. Advocates for those in lower income brackets say that the system hits them especially hard. They cannot afford the fines and they have to figure out how they are going to function without their license.
DWI law advocates say that there has been an almost 40 percent drop in the number of alcohol-related deaths on Minnesota’s roads in the last quarter century. However, that statistic does not tell the entire story. There has also been a steady drop in non-alcohol-related fatalities on the roads. Some of this has to do with improved road conditions, seatbelt laws, and safer cars. When statistically looking at the number of traffic injuries and death in the state that are related to alcohol, the number has hardly moved. It has remained steady between 30 and 40 percent. This states that DWI is as much a problem as it ever was.
For the past decade, Minnesota law enforcement has been charging drivers with DWI at a rate of 30,000 per year. At one time, Minnesota was a haven for drunken drivers. As recent as 1959, it was legal to have an open bottle of vodka between your thighs while you drove down the street. Even if you were pulled over for suspicion of driving while drunk, you could refuse the blood-alcohol testing, denying the police the evidence needed to file the charge. It was in the 1960s that the laws changed.
As for the answer to the question of whether or not the laws work, it is to be determined. There are many factors that contribute to the reduction in roadway fatalities. What isn’t disputed is that keeping someone from driving drunk does reduce their odds of being in an accident.