DUI/DWI citations down on campus

Since hitting a 10-year high in 2003, campus-area drunken driving charges have reduced significantly, according to UMPD and MPD records.

Megan Nicolai

University of Minnesota police issued two citations near the University campus for driving while intoxicated Thursday morning, adding to what has been an otherwise quiet year for drunken driving.

A University student was arrested after he struck a car while backing out of a driveway around 6 a.m. Thursday in Southeast Como. Earlier that morning, a woman not affiliated with the University was pulled over for an illegal turn and released at the scene with a DWI citation. Both drivers were under the legal drinking age.

Since January, there have been 33 DWI or driving under the influence arrests in the neighborhoods surrounding campus, according to records from University police and the Minneapolis Police Department.

This number âÄî an average of six DWI or DUI charges per month so far this year âÄî is unusually low, University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said. In 2009 and 2010, there was an average of about eight such arrests per month.

The number of DUI and DWI offenses in the University area hit a 10-year high in 2003, when University police reported 220 offenses. The total number of arrests each year has since tapered.

The majority of DUI or DWI offenders tend to not be students, but often people passing through the area, Miner said.

âÄúStudents are more likely to be charged with consuming in public,âÄù Miner said. âÄúNot many of them are driving. TheyâÄôre going to houses.âÄù

Minneapolis police Sgt. Steve McCarty said Minneapolis police report fewer DWI arrests in the area because they do not patrol it as much as University police.

âÄúBy sheer numbers, there are more UMPD officers that patrol that area,âÄù McCarty said. âÄúItâÄôs just a small part of Minneapolis.âÄù

A DWI is specifically for excessive alcohol consumption where an offender has a blood alcohol content of more than 0.08. DUI charges can be issued in any case of impaired driving involving alcohol or drugs. Both charges carry the same consequences.

âÄúTheyâÄôre basically synonymous,âÄù McCarty said.

Though itâÄôs unlikely that a DWI offender will be held to the maximum sentencing, the possible consequences of a DWI offense are steep, Miner said. In the state of Minnesota, a first-time DUI or DWI offender may face up to 90 days of jail time and a $1,000 fine for the misdemeanor offense, if there are no other charges and the DWI test is not refused.

If a person receives four DWIs during a 10-year period, their charge is a felony, and the offender may face up to seven years in jail and a $14,000 fine.

Charges are often given during traffic stops, if officers notice erratic driving or odd behavior, Miner said. No other methods of weeding out drunk drivers, such as road blocks, are employed by University police officers, and are in fact illegal in Minnesota, Miner said.