BAC lowers to .16 for gross misdemeanor DWI in Minnesota

You better think twice before drinking and getting behind the wheel. The penalties for driving under the influence in Minnesota just got tougher, and it could impact thousands of people every year.

Right now, you get charged with a misdemeanor if your blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 or above, which won't change under the new law.  That means up to 90 days in jail, and losing your license for 90 days.

If you have a BAC of .20 or above, you get charged with a gross misdemeanor. But in August, that changes to a .16 BAC for which you could spend a year in jail and lose your license for a year.

"You're going to have an additional 3,000 people a year who are going to have to be processed through our jails, there's 87 counties in Minnesota," Criminal Defense Attorney Joe Tamburino said. "Who knows how many beds they're going to need over the weekend or overnight to accommodate all these people."

Because a gross misdemeanor triggers certain bail requirements, Tamburino said DWIs are going to get a lot more expensive. The idea behind the law is to reduce the higher BAC levels that lead to crashes, and reduce re-offending.

More than 40 percent of those arrested for DWI are repeat offenders -- that's the worst record in the country.

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