What happens in a drunk driving arrest in Minnesota?

With more than 25,000 people arrested every year in Minnesota for drunk driving, understanding the laws is important.

The phrase "drinking and driving" certainly has a negative connotation yet the reality is that most adults do drink and drive at some point. In addition, this behavior is not actually illegal. What is illegal is driving with an blood alcohol content that is beyond a certain level. The practice of having a beer with friends after work or a glass of wine over dinner is common in today's society.

Understanding what happens during a drunk driving investigation is important because even a person who may not be intoxicated might be in this situation.

Tests at a traffic stop location

If an officer stops a person while driving and believes for some reason they may be under the influence of alcohol, the officer may begin questioning them. Before a driver can be arrested, however, a police officer has to collect sufficient evidence. This is where roadside tests come into play.

As explained by FieldSobrietyTests.org, the standard field tests that include walking along a real or imaginary line, balancing on one leg or tracking an involuntary motion of the eyeball are designed to provide the evidence is needed to justify a criminal arrest for a driving while intoxicated charge. The results of these tests are admissible in court.

It is important for drivers to know that these tests are far from foolproof. Their individual accuracy rates vary from 65 percent to 77 percent. Many things including a driver's health may prevent even a sober person from passing these tests.

Drivers are under no legal obligation to perform any of these so-called tests and should not. They are designed in a way that gives an officer the ability to claim "scientific impairment" when there accuracy is only slightly better than the results of a coin flip.

The officer will also encourage drivers to blow into a small device called a preliminary breath test. Although these results are not admissible in a criminal trial, the result can be used to justify an arrest and to uphold a driver's license revocation. Drivers are also not required to blow into one of these portable devices and should not. The only test the law requires of a driver is the evidentiary test at the station or hospital.

Harsh penalties even for first offenses

A drunk driving offense in Minnesota could send a person to jail even if they have never had a previous offense. With a blood alcohol content of 0.15 or lower, a driver may be sentenced to 90 days in jail, to pay a $1,000 fine or both. They may also lose the right to drive for 90 days.

This offense is a misdemeanor, but even the increase of a person's BAC to 0.16 will change the charge to a gross misdemeanor, which increases the penalties to 1 year in jail, a $3000 fine, or both. One change at this level is the additional requirement to use an ignition interlock device for a specified period of time.

Drivers deserve fair treatment

With tough penalties to be faced and inaccurate testing methods, drivers who have been arrested and charged with suspected drunk driving offenses should always contact an attorney in Minnesota for help. This will give them the opportunity to have someone explain the laws to them and advocate on their behalf.