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Do you understand Minnesota's ignition interlock program?

Facing serious criminal consequences is only one of the major issues related to a driving while intoxicated (DWI) charge in Minnesota. While offenders may face some time in jail, as well as fines and a criminal record, all of that often proves secondary to another consequence. Losing your license is one of the administrative penalties associated with a DWI conviction or guilty plea.

The length of license suspension is related to the amount of alcohol in someone's body at the time of the arrest, as well as the number of previous offenses. It can range from 30 days for those who plead guilty to a first DWI offense to two years for a second offense, and loss of licensing completely with a third or subsequent charge.

How losing your license affects your life

Most people depend on their personal vehicle to get everywhere they need to be, from work to doctors' appointments and even court dates. Without your license, you may have to rely on carpools, ride-sharing apps, public transportation or taxis. These can quickly become expensive. Even worse, they can be unreliable, leaving you at risk of losing your job for repeated tardiness.

People simply can't provide for themselves and care for their families without a license. The creation of the ignition interlock program allows those convicted of a DWI offense to secure a limited license while protecting the public from the risk associated with impaired driving. Driving another vehicle or intentionally tampering with the device could result in loss of the limited license or other criminal consequences.

Those with a high blood alcohol content for a first DWI or a second DWI charge must participate in an ignition interlock system if they want to drive in the next one to two years. Those with multiple previous offenses could have to use an ignition interlock for as long as six years.

How does the ignition interlock system work?

The person convicted of a DWI pays for the installation of an ignition interlock device in one's vehicle. This device requires that the driver perform a breath test before starting the vehicle and at random while driving as well. There is a camera in the device to ensure the driver is the one performing the test.

If individuals have alcohol on their breath before starting the vehicle, it will not start up. If they have a positive test while driving, they can continue driving, but the machine records the failure. People with limited licenses can only drive their vehicle with the ignition interlock device installed.

If you face DWI charges and worry about the impact losing your license could have on your job or your life, an ignition interlock device and a limited license could help you remain mobile.

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