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Ask a Trooper: What are the penalties for drunken driving?

Sgt. Neil Dickenson, Minnesota State Patrol

Question: My ex-husband was pulled a few months back and charged with a DWI. Per his report, he paid just about $1,000 in fines prior to his court date. In court, he was fined another $400 and that was it! He was not ordered to place the "whiskey plates" on his truck. He had a suspended license for a measly 30 days.

My question for you: Is this truly all the regulation placed on a person who is arrested for drunken driving? This sort of thing makes my stomach turn flips. People are not being held accountable for their actions and are given a slap on the wrist for poor decision-making skills. In this day and age, there is no excuse for driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.

Answer: In my career, I have investigated far too many crashes where someone was seriously injured or killed as a result of a driver's decision to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence.

In Minnesota, it's against the law for a person who is under the influence of alcohol, controlled or hazardous substances to operate a motor vehicle. The severity of the offense increases depending on impairment level and past DWI convictions.

If convicted of impaired driving, the penalty for a first offense is up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

If the driver has prior DWI convictions, the penalties increase to two to seven years in jail and/or fines of $3,000-$14,000.

Refusal to submit to a chemical test may also result in a fine and jail time.

Along with possible fines and jail time, a driver's license will be revoked from three months to four years. The offender may also lose their license plates and car and their insurance costs will increase.

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Minnesota law enforcement officers are trained to identify drivers who are under the influence of alcohol and drugs, and we are committed to taking impaired drivers off the road before they injure or kill themselves and others. If a person chooses to operate a motor vehicle while impaired from alcohol or drugs, they will face consequences.

If a person feels the effects of anything that impairs their ability to operate a motor vehicle safely, they need to make the right choice and not get behind the wheel. They should ride with a sober driver, take a safe, alternative transportation option or stay at the location of the party. The best thing to do is to plan ahead for a sober ride before going out to have a good time.

Send your questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota to or Sgt. Neil Dickenson — Minnesota State Patrol at 1131 Mesaba Ave., Duluth, MN 55811.