Minnesota tightens DWI limit

TRIMONT, Minn. (AP) -- It was only a broken headlight on a beat-up pickup truck, but it led Martin County Deputy Matthew Owens to turn around and stop it for a check.
The pickup's driver reeked of alcohol and a test showed he had a 0.12-percent blood-alcohol level, enough for a drunken-driving offense -- even on one of the last nights in the last state in the country to have a 0.10 percent minimum for driving while intoxicated.
Minnesota's DWI limit drops to 0.08 percent today, giving the United States a uniform standard.
"It's taken a long time, but at least we can all be glad that we finally have this sensible national level," said John Moulden, former president of the National Commission Against Drunk Driving.
Last year, deputies and police made 134 DWI arrests in southern Minnesota's largely rural Martin County, giving it one of the state's highest drunken driving arrest rates per capita.
Even though Minnesota has a reputation for being tough on drunken drivers -- automatically revoking driver's licenses when a person is arrested or refuses a breath test and making it a felony to get a fourth DWI offense in 10 years -- the state lagged when it came to adopting the limit of 0.08 percent.
Backers started pushing for the lower limit in the 1980s but ran into opposition from the liquor industry and people who objected to the federal threat to dock highway funds for states that did not adopt the uniform standard of 0.08 percent, first approved 22 years ago by Utah.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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