Nobody plans to be arrested for DWI, but last year in Minnesota, more than 27,000 people found themselves in the back seat of a squad car.
This year, we’re well ahead of that pace with more than 16,000 DWI arrests through August 15th.
That number is expected to jump in the coming weeks during a statewide extra DWI enforcement wave that runs August 16th through September 2nd.
Extra officers from more than 300 law enforcement will be out on the road looking for drunk drivers.
If that’s not enough to scare you into driving sober, the Department of Public Safety offered local TV reporters a rare chance to see what it’s like to be arrested for DWI.
Here’s what it was like.
First, it started with the handcuffs.
Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Gordon Shank slapped the cuffs on me and brought me to the Dakota County Jail to be booked.
In movies and TV people always complain the cuffs are too tight.
Speaking from experience, I can assure you, they’re not exactly comfortable.
After they cuff you, they walk you into the intake area.
This is where deputies pat you down thoroughly, and I mean thoroughly.
They check you for weapons and drugs, and then they ask you a bunch of questions.
After that they take you into another room and give you the breath test.
You have the option of taking it willfully or calling an attorney for guidance.
If you don’t already have an attorney, you can search for one by scrolling though a mountain of legal directories the county has stacked in the corner of the room.
If you decide to take the breath test, the deputy puts on a new mouth piece and tells you to blow in it.
After a few seconds of blowing hard until you’re nearly blue in the face, the deputy prints out the results and hands them to you.
The two of you then sit on a couch while they explain the results and how much trouble you’re in.
They make you sign a few papers that show you understand what’s going on, and then after all that, they finally take you in.
A deputy welcomes you in and makes you take off your shoes and jewelry.
They catalogue everything in their computer, and they give you a new pair of sandals to wear while you’re in jail.
Being bright orange, and spongy, the sandals aren’t exactly stylish.
They’re sort of like crocs, only they’re used and worn in a bit, and they’re the color of a bright orange hunting jacket.
The deputies then ask you a bunch of questions regarding your physical and mental health.
For some people this process includes more than 100 questions.
That’s right, getting booked into jail isn’t a fast process, but it’s thorough.
After that deputies take you into a holding cell where you wait to be booked.
This wait can be anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours depending on how busy they are.
Once they’re ready for you, another deputy brings you to another computer where they explain your situation.
They tell you what the charges might look like in your situation, how long you might have to stay, where the phones are, what the rules are, and in case you forget something, they send you away with a manual that explains everything.
Then, they take your picture, from the front, and both sides, and if you have scars or tattoos, they need to take pictures of them too.
Depending how much body art you have, the process can take two minutes, or two hours, it all depends on how much ink you have on your body.
After all those pictures, come the finger prints.
And no, they don’t use ink anymore, everything’s electronic.
They have you put your fingers on a scanner with green lasers that take digital pictures of your finger prints.
They take pictures of each finger individually, then all of them together, and then a picture of your palms.
The whole process of finger printing takes a few minutes.
The results are sent to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension where they check and see if you’re wanted for any other crimes.
At this point, I asked the deputies how long it usually takes for inmates to get booked.
With only movies and TV to guide me, I felt the entire process should have taken less than five minutes.
I’m shocked to find out the entire process typically takes a few hours, depending on the person, and if they’re busy, say with ten or more inmates all at once, checking them all in could take all day.
For me, a sober reporter covering a news story, it was easy to go through the process and answer all their questions, but can you imagine how chaotic this must be when the person is still drunk?
When you’re finally all checked in, deputies bring you to another waiting area where you wait for someone to bring you to the showers.
They strip you down to your underwear and search you again.
Lucky for me, they gave me the option to avoid this part of the process, and naturally, I took them up on it.
Once you’re down to your underwear, they have you take a long shower.
After that, they give you a jumpsuit that’s stylishly striped in green and white, and they give you a nice welcome basket filled with towels, wash cloths, bed sheets, blankets, and misc. toiletries.
Then, “the walk,” the long walk to your jail cell, where you’re likely getting your first look at other inmates who all size you up as “the new guy.”
Deputies say this is typically the moment where people finally realize, oh man, I’m in jail!
The jail itself has multiple sections, each one can house a few dozen inmates.
Each section has a common area with chairs and tables, a large overhead TV, and a few showers everyone shares.
Within each section are numerous cells, each one can house one or two inmates, depending on how busy they are.
The cells themselves are smaller than you might think, they’re tiny.
The bunk beds aren’t exactly “king-sized,” they’re pretty tight, and the toilet in your cell doesn’t exactly offer you privacy, it’s just there, in the middle of room for everyone to see.
Seeing a jail cell on TV is one thing, but actually being in one is an entirely different experience.
Once that door closes, and the quiet sets in, you experience the suddenly small world these inmates find themselves in.
For me, a guy who’s slightly claustrophobic, just a few minutes in the cell was enough to put me on edge.
I can’t imagine sharing the space with someone else, let alone living there for more than a few minutes.
Depending on your situation, they might put you in a jail cell overnight, or several days.
Deputies say the typical rule is they can only hold you for 48 hours before a judge hands you you’re charges.
But in certain situations, like weekends and holidays, they might have to keep you in jail for several days.
Now, if this experience isn’t persuading enough, consider the cost.
Depending on your charges, and your criminal history, a DWI can cost you up to $15,000.
That number includes all the legal fees, missed wages, and the cost of insurance, now that you have a DWI on your record.
If cost isn’t enough to sway you, consider this, in 2018 Minnesota drivers killed 84 people, the highest death toll in nearly five years.
That’s right, driving drunk doesn’t only affect you, but everyone else who’s on the road with you.
If an uncomfortable stay in jail, and a $15,000 price tag isn’t enough to give you pause the next time you’re drunk and consider driving home, remember those people, the 84 from last year, who died because of someone else’s mistake.