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Evaluation and System Description of ASAP (Alcohol Safety Action Projects) Judicial Systems, Volume 4 - Hennepin County, Minnesota, Case Study

NCJ Number
R J Ripberger
Date Published
104 pages
The Alcohol Safety Action Project (ASAP) of Hennepin County, Minn., was evaluated to determine the impact of recent State legislation on the courts' handling of drunk driving offenders.
Data were collected via interviews, review of pertinent literature, observations, and records analysis. Three laws passed in 1971 illustrated the State's interest in innovative legislation. One law stated that a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10 percent or more would be clear and sufficient evidence of intoxication. A prearrest breath test law allowed police officers to administer breath tests with portable equipment before making a formal charge. The third law allowed judges to issue a limited license to drivers whose permanent license has been suspended for refusal to take a blood test, despite the implied consent law. The new laws, combined with increased enforcement efforts, resulted in a record number of pending drunk driving cases in Hennepin Municipal Court by the end of 1973. A plea bargaining process was renewed, but it encountered problems. The subsequent substitution of judicial officers for judges produced controversy. The change in the blood alcohol law proved ineffective, because judges and juries were reluctant to convict on the basis of the blood alcohol test alone. The effect of the prearrest test law could not be determined, but the law creating the limited license did produce a clear increase in the number of license suspensions for failing to comply with the implied consent statute. Results supported the hypotheses that legislation alone cannot produce needed changes, the threat of trial is a crucial determinant of the way the system functions, law judges can handle drunk driving cases as well as legally trained judges, and judges are unlikely to suspend or revoke licenses if they believe doing so will cause hardship to defendants and their families. Tables, footnotes, 18 references, and appendixes presenting pertinent regulations are included. For related case studies and a technical report, see NCJ 72944-46 and 72948-49. (Author abstract modified)