Minnesota’s Ignition Interlock Program and New 2011 DWI Laws
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Minnesota’s DWI laws changed on July 1, 2011 by introducing the Ignition Interlock pilot program.  The program provides a pathway for persons with suspended, withdrawn, cancelled or revoked drivers licenses to get their driving privileges back by agreeing to install the ignition interlock device in their vehicles.  This article gives an overview of the ingition interlock program, explains what the ignition interlock device actually is and how persons charged with DWI are affected.


Quick Overview of the New 2011 DWI Law Changes


  • Lowers blood alcohol concentration (BAC) from 0.20 to 0.16 for enhanced penalties
  • Lengthens license revocation time periods BUT allows for earlier reinstatement of driving privileges by installing the ignition interlock device
  • The new laws will most significantly affect repeat DWI offenders and first-time DWI offenders with a BAC of 0.16 or higher


What is the “Ignition Interlock” device?


The ignition interlock device is a machine connected to a vehicle’s electrical system which tests a motorist blood alcohol concentration before driving. The car will not start if the device detects alcohol on the driver’s breath.  While on the road, the driver must take random tests to ensure sobriety.  If the driver fails a test while operating the vehicle, the device will ask the driver to take the vehicle in for calibration.


How does the device work?  How are results monitored?


Before starting a vehicle, the driver must blow into the ignition interlock device for 2 to 5 seconds.  If the device detects a blood alcohol contentration of 0.02 or higher, the vehicle will not start.  The device will then tell the driver whether he or she “passed” or “failed.”  Each month data from the device is monitored to see:


  • Whether and when the driver committed violations
  • Whether the system was tampered with or disconnected


How much does it cost?


The cost of the device may vary depending on the vendor but here is an estimate of the required fees:


  • $50.00 installation fee
  • $100.00 monthly calibration fee
  • $50.00 removal fee


License Revocation Time Periods


For first and second time DWI offenses, full driving privileges will be granted by installing the ignition interlock device.  For third, fourth, fifth and subsequent DWI violations, limited driving privileges are available during the first year of revocation and full driving privileges are available for the remaining revocation period where alcohol abstinence is shown, as monitored by the ignition interlock device.  Here is a summary of different revocation periods and the qualifying circumstances:


3 month revocation:


  • First time offender with BAC below 0.16


1 year revocation:


  • First time offenders with BAC of 0.16 or higher
  • First time offenders who test refuse
  • Second time offenders with BAC less than 0.16


2 year revocation:


  • Second time offenders with BAC of 0.16 or higher


3 year revocation:


  • Third offense
  • 1 year limited license provided with the usse of ignition interlock
  • 2 years full driving privileges with use of ignition interlock


4 year revocation:


  • Fourth offense
  • 1 year limited license provided with use of ignition interlock
  • 3 years full driving privileges with use of ignition interlock


5 year revocation:


  • Fifth offense
  • 1 year limited license provided with use of ignition interlock
  • 5 years full driving privileges with use of ignition interlock


New Statutory Violations


Below are new statutory provisions relating to the ignition interlock device that all persons should be aware of:


  • Minn. Stat. §171.09, Subd. 1(d)(2): It is a misdemeanor for a person who holds a restricted license issued under section 171.306 to drive, operate or be in physical control of any motor vehicle that is not equipped with a functioning ignition interlock device certified by the commissioner.
  • Minn. Stat. §171.306, Subd. 6(a): It is a misdemeanor for a person to lend, rent or lease a motor vehicle that is not equipped with a functioning ignition interlock device certified by the commissioner to a person with a restricted ignition interlock drivers license.
  • Minn. Stat. §171.306, Subd. 6(b): It is a misdemeanor for a person to tamper with, circumvent, or bypass the ignition interlock device, or assists another to do so.


DWI Mandatory Minimum Sentences


Under Minnesota’s DWI laws, certain DWI convictions carry mandatory jail sentences.  The following statute allows judges to disregard mandatory minimum sentences and order no or less jail time for DWI offenders who use the ignition interlock device.


  • Minn. Stat. §169A.275, Subd. (7): A judge is not required to sentence a person [to the mandatory minimums for a DWI offense under 169A.275, Subd. (1) – (4)] if the judge requires the person as a condition of probation to drive only motor vehicles equipped with an ignition interlock device meeting the standards described in section 171.306.


“B-Card” Significant Changes


Persons with a B-Card can apply to have the no alcohol restriction removed from their driving record and driver’s license if the person has not violated the abstinence condition for the past 10 years.  A non-DWI violation of “any use of alcohol or drugs invalidates license” restriction results in 1 year of ignition interlock and a chemical health assessment and order to comply with the assessment requirements.




While Minnesota’s new DWI laws and the ignition interlock program may introduce longer license revocation periods for DWI offenders, it gives drivers a way to get their full driving privileges returned.  The program can potentially save DWI offenders the hassle of not having a driver’s license which can cause great hardship for work, family and personal responsibilities.  To learn more about the ignition interlock program, the new DWI laws or to get a free consultation on your DWI or criminal charges, feel free to contact attorney Christopher Keyser directly at (612) 338-5007 or e-mail him directly at

If You Need a Top Minnesota Criminal Lawyer Call 312-338-5007



With offices in Minneapolis and Stillwater, Minnesota, Keyser Law, P.A. handles cases throughout the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area including:




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