Minnesota’s ignition interlock program provides first-time DWI offenders with BACs of 0.16 or higher and all second-time of DWI offenders with an option to regain their driving privileges. Drivers who have their licenses canceled and driving privileges taken away because they are “inimical to public safety” are required to participate in this program for three to six years to earn back their full driving privileges.

Purpose of the Ignition Interlock Program

The purpose of the Minnesota ignition interlock device program is to enhance public safety by giving eligible alcohol offenders the option of having the device installed in their vehicle. The benefit of this program is two-fold. Offenders can remain independent and use their vehicles to go to work to earn a living.

The program is administered by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Driver and Vehicle Services Division (DVS). Because the program became effective on July 1, 2011, drivers who had their licenses canceled or revoked before that date have the option of enrolling in the program. To participate, these drivers must first sign a waiver.

What Is an Ignition Interlock Device?

An ignition interlock device is used as a deterrent to driving under the influence of alcohol. The device, which is about the size of a handheld calculator is installed in the offender’s vehicle near the steering wheel. It is connected to the vehicle’s engine. The driver must blow into the tube before attempting to start the car. If a blood alcohol concentration of .02 or above is detected, the device prevents the engine from starting.

These devices must be obtained and installed by a vendor that is certified by the DVS. Certification is performed annually by the state. The state does not regulate prices or receive money from the installation, rental, and maintenance of the interlock device. Offenders may want to shop around for the best price and best vendor reviews when they are approved.

Consequences of Alcohol or Device Tampering Violations

The DVS takes alcohol and device tampering violations seriously. First and second-time offenders in the program who register a .02 BAC or higher within the last 90 days of their program will have their time extended an additional 90 days from the date of the offending reading. Offenders who lost their licenses because they were canceled inimical to public safety (IPS) who have a .02 BAC or higher will be canceled from the program. They will need to re-enroll in the ignition interlock program.

Participants in Minnesota’s ignition interlock program are also subject to non-alcohol-related violations including:

  • Attempts to tamper, circumvent, or bypass the device
  • Driving a vehicle that is not equipped with an ignition interlock device
  • Violating the conditions of their limited license
  • Fewer than 30 initial blows each month, which applies to canceled-IPS participants

Sanctions for non-alcohol violations extend the program length. For the first violation, the program is extended by 180 days. A second violation extends the program by one year. For third and subsequent violations, the program will be extended by 545 days.

Compliance Requirements for the Program

The DWI offender is responsible for the cost to install an ignition interlock device and its monthly service fees. Financial assistance is available to eligible offenders who meet the requirements set by the court. During installation, the offender receives an orientation on how to use the device. However, the driver cannot begin to legally drive the vehicle until they receive permission from the DVS.

Participants in the ignition interlock program are required to keep regular service appointments that are scheduled every 30 days. During that appointment, data is downloaded from the device and sent to the DVS. The device is then recalibrated and checked for evidence of tampering.

To remain in compliance with the program, participants must demonstrate regular and consistent use of the device to verify abstinence. This is evidenced by no fewer than 30 breath alcohol concentration tests registering below .02 each month.