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Answers to common DWI questions

Question: This question comes up very frequently and always creates an interesting debate. I understand that if you have a commercial driver's license the legal limit for a DWI is .04 (I think) and normal operation of a vehicle is .08. The question is, if you are driving (for example) from your son or daughter's wedding and get stopped for one reason or another and have a CDL, are you subject to the .04 legal operating limit being under the influence or .08 legal limit? To make it more complex, let's say you are driving home after working as a commercial driver and get stopped for one or two beers. You are not doing your job as commercial operator driving, but just driving home. So, again, which legal limit applies? Thanks for your comments.

Answer: This question is one that is asked MANY times, so please take a copy of this article with you to the next debate. It is not the class of driver's license, but rather the type of vehicle being driven that matters.

According to MN statute 169.A.20 sb 1 "It is a crime for any person to drive, operate, or be in physical control of any motor vehicle, as defined in section 169A.03, subdivision 15, except for motorboats in operation and off-road recreational vehicles, within this state or on any boundary water of this state when" clause 6 reads: "the vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle and the person's alcohol concentration at the time, or as measured within two hours of the time, of driving, operating, or being in physical control of the commercial motor vehicle is 0.04 or more."

While most of the time the driver of a commercial motor vehicle will have a CDL, it really does not matter according to this law. The fact that it is a commercial motor vehicle being driven dictates that the alcohol concentration level of 0.04 is now used.

As for your second concern, driving home from a family event, it is still dependent upon the type of vehicle you are driving. If it is not a commercial vehicle, then the 0.08 is applicable.

As for driving home after working, it also is dependent on what type of vehicle you are driving. Again, if it is not a commercial vehicle, then the 0.08 is applicable. If, however, you decide to drive the semi tractor home and you stop for a beer or two, then you have a number of other laws to be concerned about, such as no driving a commercial vehicle with alcohol in your system.

That falls under the commercial vehicle section of statutes and that statute does require driving on duty, just driving a commercial vehicle. Because the semi tractor is a commercial motor vehicle, then the 0.04 is applicable to a DWI charge.

When on a multi-lane road and approaching an emergency vehicle, with lights flashing, stopped on the side drivers are required to move if possible. State Troopers are out there to help and protect you. Please help keep us safer by giving us that room, when safely possible, for our safety. Our families also thank you!

If you have any questions concerning traffic-related laws in Minnesota, send your questions to Trp. Andy Schmidt - Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205. (Or reach me at,