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Study recommends lowered drunk-driving threshold

For Minnesota motorists, DWI offenses already carry significant penalties. Even first-time offenders facing misdemeanor charges could wind up with a license suspension, a major fine and even jail time. Like all other states, Minnesota sets the drunk driving threshold at a blood alcohol count of .08 percent. However, a study is recommending a lowered limit, arguing that it will cut down on fatal accidents.

The report, issued by a panel of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, recommends the implementation of a limit of .05 percent. In practice, this would mean a limit of two drinks over the course of an evening for most women and two to three drinks for most men. The report stated that there are around 10,000 annual deaths in the United States attributable to drunk driving that could be prevented with a lowered BAC threshold. In addition, the study made a number of recommendations to reduce access to alcohol in general, including increasing taxation on alcohol and cutting down the hours in which it is legal for businesses and restaurants to sell alcoholic drinks.

It also urged heavier penalties for underage drinking as well as the creation of public-health campaigns about alcohol similar to those about smoking. The hospitality and beverage industries have already come out against the proposal, arguing that most DUI fatal crashes are committed by repeat offenders and people with high blood alcohol content levels who would not be affected by a change. They also dismissed measures like tax increases as marginal to traffic safety concerns.

People who are facing DWI charges should be aware that penalties are severe even for first-time offenders. A criminal defense attorney can work to protect a person's rights, challenge unjust charges or improper evidence and advocate strongly in court.

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