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In 1997, the Legislature adopted tough new sanctions for drivers with blood-alcohol levels of 0.20 percent or higher.
Authorities charged 6,079 motorists for having a blood-alcohol concentration of more than 0.20 percent in 1998. Last year, the number dipped to 4,034, a 34 percent decline.
The issue came to light again earlier this week when a car driven by a man with a history of DWI convictions struck and critically injured a man in south Minneapolis.
Charges are expected against the driver, Kaleb J. Conway, whose criminal record includes underage driving and drinking and fourth-degree drunken driving.
“The problem seems to be with repeat offenders and perhaps we need to look at what we’re doing now and what we could be doing differently to address that demographic,” said Teresa Nelson, of the ACLU of Minnesota.
Authorities say they merely arrest and charge drunken motorists. From there, the justice system and the Legislature decide the fate of motorists’ driving privileges.
“From that point forward, it’s kind of out of our hands as far as what consequences they face and how long their driving privileges are taken away from them,” said Roeske.
Libor Jany • 612-673-4064