As of July 1, 2011, the Minnesota DMV ceased issuing work permits or limited driver’s licenses to first-time DWI offenders whose alcohol concentration was above 0.15 and all to any repeat DWI offenders. In addition, driver’s license revocation and cancellation periods have also been substantially increased for DWI offenders.
Instead of work permits, Minnesota Driver and Vehicle Services instituted a program called Ignition Interlock. The program allows for drivers to regain driving privileges sooner, in some cases as soon as they can be set upon the program, after a DWI offense than was previously possible with work permits. This program is particularly beneficial for drivers whose licenses have been canceled as IPS (Inimical to Public Safety) or for drivers who have several previous alcohol-related license revocations or DWI offenses because it allows most drivers on the program to regain operating privileges almost right away. Prior to the program a driver canceled as IPS had absolutely no other option than to wait out his or her entire cancellation period.
The ignition interlock itself is a portable breath test machine that is installed on the driver’s vehicle. The device requires a breath test sample in order to start the vehicle and periodic breath test samples while the vehicle is engaged. Breath samples over 0.02 will not allow for the vehicle to be started. For safety reasons, a periodic samples that show an alcohol concentration over 0.02 will be indicated on a report. The ignition interlock is a small handheld device that is wired into the vehicle’s starting system. It is attached by a cord that connects under the vehicle’s dashboard. The program is monitored by monthly reports to probation. Penalties result to drivers who try to tamper with the device, do not comply with periodic sample prompts, and supply breath samples with alcohol content above normal levels. Penalties differ depending on the type of violation, but can include criminal penalties and increased license revocation or cancellation time.
Program requirements vary depending on a person’s driver’s license status. There are different requirements for drivers whose license is revoked versus drivers whose license is canceled. The program requirements for ignition interlock also vary depending on how many previous revocations or cancellations a driver has incurred as related to previous DWI offenses.
For drivers who are willing to comply with program requirements, the main disadvantage to the Ignition Interlock program is that it can be quite expensive. The license reinstatement fee of $680.00 and application fees are required to the DMV when applying for the program. Drivers must also have completed or at least enrolled in any required additional treatment or chemical health assessments. In addition, the DMV does not provide the actual ignition interlock device and monitoring equipment. The driver chooses a separate DMV approved company for the ignition interlock device and monitoring equipment. Each company’s costs vary, but typically the monthly cost for using the device ranges from $60-$125. This monthly fee does not include installation which averages around $100 and removal of the device after program completion.