DUI laws became stricter as of January 1

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 1/13/98.

Minnesota state law says it is a crime for any person to drive, operate, or be in physical control of any motor vehicle if they are under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance.

When the new year started on Jan. 1, the above law became stricter, especially for the most-impaired drivers and repeat offenders.

ďOf all the law changes which started on Jan. 1, this one will have the most impact on individuals,Ē Tony Schmitt, Paynesville Police Chief said. ďHaving a blood alcohol concentration of .20 is now a gross misdemeanor on the first violation, not a second time violation.Ē It continues to be a misdemeanor if a person has a blood alcohol concentration of .10.

What is considered a motor vehicle under the new law? Every vehicle which is self-propelled or which is propelled by electric power obtained from overhead trolley wire. This includes: cars, trucks, motorboats, ATVís, snowmobiles, riding lawn mowers, golf carts, etc.

The drunken-driving changes are part of an effort to focus enforcement on the worst offenders. The Legislature rejected reducing the blood-alcohol limit to 0.08 percent, as some other states have done. Combining drunken-driving laws with those regulating operation of recreational vehicles came after 32 Minnesotans died last winter in snowmobile accidents, 63 percent involved alcohol.

In 1996, 58 percent of Minnesotaís boating fatalities involved alcohol. In 1996 and 1997, a total of 415 people were arrested by county sheriffs deputies and DNR Conservation Officers in Minnesota for operating a motorboat under the influence.

For the complete details on the new law and its consequences, see a copy of this week's Paynesville Press.

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