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How a computer program keeps you safer on MN roads

March 16, 2017

A Minnesota State Trooper demonstrates a field sobriety test.
​Photo: The DWI eCharging software used by 99 percent of law enforcement officers in Minnesota can help get – and keep – impaired drivers off the roads. Read on to learn how.

“I love doing lots of paperwork,” said no one ever. And Minnesota law enforcement officers are no exception. Sure, they do it when it needs to be done, but when the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension released its eCharging software for DWIs in 2010, let’s just say it was a happy day in law enforcement agencies all over the state. And what’s in it for you and me? The software helps them help us stay safer on Minnesota roads.

It may not seem like a big deal for the average driver, but maybe you remember what it was like to go down to the post office to get your tax forms, hoping you got all the right ones, tracking down everything you needed from the year before, then sending everything off to the IRS with a wish and a prayer. Compare that to sitting down with your favorite tax software. You just answer the questions, it walks you through everything, then sends all the necessary information to all the right places. It’s a lot less time, a lot more accurate and a lot less hassle, right? That’s how your average Minnesota law enforcement officer feels about eCharging.

Just like tax laws, DWI laws in Minnesota can change frequently. Now, rather than having to memorize all the nuances and changes of the law, officers can plug the facts into the eCharging system and it eliminates all possibilities for error. In fact, it brought the 34 percent error rate caused by omissions and mistakes on paper forms to zero. That helps reduce the risk that a drunk driver walks away with no consequences, possibly jeopardizing the lives of others in the future.

Another advantage of eCharging is that it cuts down on the sheer volume of paperwork, which in turn saves time so they can more quickly get back out on the road to protect us from dangerous drivers. Before this system was available, when an officer pulled an offender over for driving while impaired, they would have to fill out these forms one by one (often at the side of the road in the middle of the night):

  1. Implied Consent Advisory
  2. Peace Officer’s Certificate
  3. Notice and Order of Revocation
  4. Temporary Driver’s License
  5. License Plate Impoundment form
  6. Temporary Registration
  7. Vehicle Forfeiture Notice
  8. Property Receipt for Vehicle

Among other things, this involved writing the offender’s name and driver’s license number more than a dozen times! Now, an officer plugs in the information once; the program populates it in all the right places; and sends it off to all the necessary records keepers, courts, prosecutors, judges, and so on. All accurately and in about nine minutes.

The eCharging system clearly makes law enforcement officers’ jobs easier – but it also keeps you safer on the road. After all, the less time officers spend processing DWI arrests, the more time they can spend out on the road. Which means they’ll be able to remove more impaired drivers from Minnesota’s roadways. And because eCharging reduces errors to zero and sends everything where it needs to go, there is a follow-up consequence for a DWI. Which means more impaired drivers are staying off the roads, making them safer for you and your family.