WORTHINGTON — A look at the latest data from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety reveals a sobering fact: one in seven licensed Minnesota drivers has a DWI (driving while impaired) charge on their record; 42% of those drivers have more than one DWI.
Minnesota law does not make a distinction between driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and actually being intoxicated — either way a driver is impaired by consumption of alcohol or drugs, creating dangerous road conditions — so Minnesota charges the offense as driving while impaired.
To be charged with DWI, a driver must submit to a breathalyzer test and get a result of at least .08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC), or eight grams of alcohol per liter of blood. However, with a controlled substance, there is no "legal limit" — any amount of illegal drugs present in the body can land a driver with a DWI charge.
Law enforcement takes DWI seriously, as one-third of traffic deaths in Minnesota occur as a result of alcohol-related crashes. On a first offense, a driver faces a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and/or 90 days in jail. Having a BAC of .16% or higher and having a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle are considered aggravating factors, which may increase the penalty.
The more DWI convictions a driver accumulates, the more severe the consequences become.
Locally, DWI charges are not uncommon. The Worthington Police Department made 67 DWI arrests last year.
"It used to be that weekend nights were the most likely time to have contact with someone driving impaired," said WPD Capt. Kevin Flynn. "Now, it could be at any time on any day."
December 2019 saw the most DWIs in the city of Worthington at nine, and February came in least at two. The overall average was 5.58 DWI arrests each month.
In 52 of the cases, the charges were filed on the grounds of alcohol; 15 of the offenses involved controlled substances. Fifty-six of the DWIs were issued to men and 11 to women.
This story is part of a series regarding local DWI cases. For more news on DWI policing and prevention, see upcoming editions of The Globe or dglobe.com.