Ride Along: What Do Troopers Look For On DWI Patrol?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As your night is filled with trick-or-treaters, the roadways are filled with state troopers.

Halloween is one of the busiest nights on Minnesota roads for the state patrol.

And you might be curious about what troopers are watching for when they pull over an impaired driver.

For two nights, WCCO-TV road along with Lt. Chris Erickson of the Minnesota State Patrol as he showed us what catches his eye, and the safety issues involved with tailing a drunk driver.

“My biggest passion is getting impaired drivers off the roads,” said Lt. Erickson.

And part of his motivation comes from a friend, whose girlfriend and baby were killed by a drunk driver.

“He’s a good friend that I still do stuff with and I’ve seen the effects of what it’s done to him,” he said.

On the road, it’s clear what he’s watching for.

“Some weaving in the lane, some hugging the lane lines. Drivers who can’t multi-task and are speeding, I take a close look at them,” Erickson said.

The first shift yields plenty of pull-overs. Some even go through sobriety tests, but no DWIs are issued.

Then, last Friday night, Lt. Erickson received a tip of an erratic driver. It lead him to a 68-year-old woman dressed in a clown suit.

She pulls into her own driveway where she fails a field sobriety test.

“Contrary to what many people think, you can get a DWI in your own driveway,” said Lt. Erickson. “The main thing is she was driving impaired and driving erratically before she tried to pull into her garage.”

The woman is booked, and it’s not long before he’s on to another stop where a driver fails to recite the A,B,Cs. And then he fails a breathalyzer.

“You are .154, so you are almost twice the legal limit,” he said.

It’s all in one night’s work for one state trooper — whose eyes never leave the car in front of him.

“The bottom line is, if we can find a reason to stop someone and check and see if they are impaired, we are going to do it,” Erickson said.

Lt. Erickson said a lot of DWIs are actually issued in the morning, when people think they have slept off the alcohol.

He says the State Patrol’s goal is to treat all drivers with respect no matter what the situation.

More from John Lauritsen
  • Billy

    I have been pulled over before after having ten 12 oz beers before and passed the tests they gave me.

    Its all tolerance and experience in drinking beer weather you are going to got to jail or not for a DWI.

    • jackactionhero

      My partner Bruce & I were driving home from Pride last summer & were pulled over..He had a few too many wine coolers & was cited for DUI..He was booked into prison for 6 hours & said it was the most frightening experience of his life..I missed him while he was away.

      • Donna

        Thankfully no one got hurt. “Jail” time should be frightening. I hope it woke him up. Why didn’t you take the keys?

    • George

      Wow Billy, you are so awesome. I cant wait until you have another 12 beer night and then crash your truck into a tree, rather then getting stopped and arrested, a much better option for a complete idiot like yourself.

      • Billy

        I am very experienced drunk driver.
        As with anything you do, experience is the key.

        • Otto

          Actually, you are an experienced idiot. You shouldn’t have a license…period.

        • Donna

          Try explaining your experience to a family of someone you may kill some night because you are an “experienced drunk”.

    • TL

      Unless you were pulled over literally by Barney Fife in Mayberry, S.C. , I’m calling b.s. on your comment there, billy. For starters, if you feel you need to brag about your stupidity…probably didnt happen.

      2nd….besides the breathalyzer that which you would have failed miserably but would have been a good indicator anyways, though not admissible, Id be curious to know where you were and who the officer was that pulled you over, administered his tests…and by your claims of having had 10 12 oz beers, sent you back out on the road after passing with flying colors.

    • em1022

      You are an absolute disgrace…how can you sleep at night knowing that put the lives of innocent people at risk because you can’t be responsible. It doesn’t matter your tolerance or experience..the law is the law for a reason. Your are so dumb and ignorant that it’s truly alarming that people like you live in our society.

  • Billy

    You drink like a clown, you are going to go to jail as a clown……..
    poor clown

  • Josh

    “The bottom line is, if we can find a reason to stop someone and check and see if they are impaired, we are going to do it,”

    Even if they are not doing anything wrong they will pull you over. So don’t let this story fool you. What do you think makes more money for the police, catching murderers and thieves or catching drunk drivers and people not wearing seat belts? Maybe they should be patrolling the neighborhoods as much as they try to patrol the bars. Maybe we would have “safer” cities then.

    • Josh the Victim

      Umm, Josh, they’d make a ton more money writing fists full of speeding tickets; where they don’t get taken off the road for several hours. DWI’s are extremely expensive, but the fines to the state are a tiny fraction of that. I highly doubt they do it it for the money, there are better ways for them to ‘tax’ the public, i.e. speed traps. I am all for them getting ‘Billy’ off the road.

      • idiocracyisnow

        It’s not always about the actual dollars from fines. The numbers they produce can equal money for the budgets. ‘Hey, we need more people because we had X dwi’s last month’. ‘Hey, we need more guns because crime is up’ ‘Thank you state for extra money because we had the highest number of DWI arrests.’ Recognition and power can equal much more than money (for politicians, appointed chiefs).

  • Josh

    Why don’t you also do a story on how those “Field sobriety tests” are conducted. They have been proven to be inaccurate time and time again yet they are still used.

    If you get pulled over you should ask to submit blood instead of doing anything else. The backwards thing about doing so is you lose you license for a year because of it. How is that for “Innocent until proven guilty”?

    • Chuck

      @Josh, My understanding is that you may choose either breathalyzer, urine, or blood test… why would you loose your license if you agree to one of them? Not that it will make any difference, as you will get hung if you are buzzed and get kicked loose if you are not. What am I missing?

      • Chris

        For my dept you only get to give a breath sample. If you refuse that you are considered a refusal and your charges will be upgraded accordingly.

      • idiocracyisnow

        There is the Portable Breathalyzer Test, if you refuse that (which is your right), you lose your license for a year. I think by asking for the actual breathalyzer/blood/urine test, you are considered refusing the PBT.

        The only reason I can see for skipping the PBT is that you aren’t sitting and waiting for the test, while your BAC climbs.

        • chris

          The PBT (Portable Breath Test) is done on the road side and is not admissible as evidence. It is a tool used to verify the findings of the field sobriety tests for example: if you are under the influence of Alcohol or is the impairment related to narcotics. The intoxilyzer 5000 is the evidentary test in the state of Minnesota for breath tests.

        • Dan

          DWI suspects may refuse to take the PBT test, but a refusal carries a punishment of a $100 fine, and two points on your driving record if under the age of 21.

    • em1022

      Don’t drink and drive period…there will be no risk of wrongfully sentenced then and everyone can stop their whining!!

  • Kathy

    I agree with Josh 100%

    • Mayhem

      Then your just as uneducated as he is, sorry…

      But youre both wrong.

  • Kevin

    Ain’t diversity grand?

    • Are you okay?

      Why do you post this same comment, over and over and over again? I picture you sitting in front of a keyboard, your shirt soaked with drool, your eyeballs rolled into the back of your head, a sparrow nesting in your hair, with you punching out the words “Ain’t Diversity Grand?” again and again. Who did that to you? Listen, if you asked for the frontal lobotomy, that’s one thing, but if someone tricked you into the procedure then you’ve been violated in a pretty serious way.

      • red

        He is a freak and constantly has! his comments removed

  • Walter

    What Do Troopers Look For On DWI Patrol?

    They look for high-end vehicles because that’s where the money is.

    • Taylor J

      You are right, It seems like I get pulled over everytime I get into my Civic. One time I was wiping down my civic and a cop stopped by to question me and check my id.

    • em1022

      your dumb….yes this is exaclty what they do!!

  • Molly

    Obviously none of the comments come from someone who has lost a loved one to a drunk driver. Hats off to the Highway Patrol for getting these killers off the road.

    • Mayhem

      That…..and those that have gotten pinched by a DUI and look at themselves as the victims of the system and not taking responsibility for their own actions.

      Or just generally stupid.

  • funny


    “QRS T U Z…… Thats a damn shame!”


  • WhatBS

    Did the MN Highway Patrol ever release what the blood alcohol level of the sanctimonious patrol officer was that got arrested about a week ago in Eden Prairie?

    • jackactionhero

      Sanctimonius? By what authority do you apply that label?

  • zee the reporter

    you cant save the world if you are a cop!

  • Just wait

    Just wait for when the libs push to decriminalize pot.

    • idiocracyisnow

      Yep, lots of slow moving objects for those drunks to dodge.

  • Dale

    Being pulled over for a DWI was the best thing that has happened in my life. It not only got me off the road before I killed someone, it made me finally realize that I am an alcoholic and I had to quit drinking entirely before I killed myself.

    • jackactionhero

      What you are is a person with a lack of self control. The alcohol doesn’t buy and drink itself, Dale. It’s you who did it.

      • Dan

        I believe that Dale is saying that getting caught for DWI caused a positive thing to happen in his life. He says he is an alcoholic which means he lacked self control. I’m pretty sure that he knows he made the choice to drink. He is saying that he now chooses not to drink. Not sure where you are going with your comment Jackactionhero?

  • idiocracyisnow

    Flame on internet dwellers!

    There are a lot of comments including the words dumb, stupid, ignorant, uneducated. But, drinking and driving doesn’t equal drunk driving. So, I look at the education of the commentors. The only thing I can come up with is the campaign- “Don’t drink and drive.” Drinking isn’t absolute drunkiness for most people. I can safely have 6 beers before I would question my driving. Yes, I’ve been stopped, passed the tests and came in under half the limit. Everybody is different, one size does not fit all.

    My conclusion is the people that so rapidly attack those who enjoy a reasonable amount of alcohol and chose to drive based on their ability are ones who don’t trust themselves to know their own limit.

    PS – Does anyone have numbers of BAC %s when there are deaths involved? My suspicion is that .08-.10 is not where deaths occur.

    • Dan

      idiocracyisnow, So are you saying that the bac limit should be raised?

      • idiocracyisnow

        I don’t have enough information, but I lean that way. My biggest thing with .08 is how the federal government forced it on the states. My next biggest thing is that something like 40% of the people of MN have at least 1 DWI. When a law makes a majority of people criminals, is the law really working? It might be doing more harm than good.

        • chris

          Here’s your numbers. Based on experience as a police officer I have had people at a .08 that could not stand up or pass a single field sobriety test and then I have had people who are alcoholics at a .22 that could pass two of the three field sobriety tests. The test that people can’t prepare for is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test. The eyes don’t lie!

          • idiocracyisnow

            Once I read on what that test looks for, I realized that I may fail it sober. The eyes may not lie…if the person is following the test as administered. Moving the eyes in sync with the object but not focusing on the object produces passable results.

            I’m pretty sure the officer that administered that test for me was confused by the results. He was trying so hard. I kind of felt bad for him, I think it was his first solo suspected-DWI stop (backup was there for the tests, they just let him run with it).

        • Dan

          On average over 10 years 35.000 people in MN get a DWI. Let’s muliply that times 40 years and we get 1,400,000 DWI’s over 40 years. The population in 2010 of MN was 5,303,925. That comes out to 37% of the population if the exact same people were here in 40 years (not reality). Also, this doesn’t take into account repeat offenders, which is approx 30-40 percent of DWI’s from what I can tell from researching stats. The percentage of people in MN with DWI’s is most likely much lower than 40%, MUCH

          • idiocracyisnow

            It may have been the driving population. I never found that ‘stat’ again.

    • TL

      “Everybody is different, one size does not fit all.”
      “My suspicion is that .08-.10 is not where deaths occur.”

      You apparently just proved your initial point. The law says .08 minimum for a reason. That said, you dont have to kill a family of four while drunk driving at any specific BAC level. Statistics show that for a majority of the population and on average, .08 is where the funtionality of a person who has been drinking is severly limited after drinking. Hence the law.

      “Drinking isn’t absolute drunkiness for most people. ”

      But you said “Everybody is different, one size does not fit all.”

      Actually, for most…IT IS.

      “I can safely have 6 beers before I would question my driving. Yes, I’ve been stopped, passed the tests and came in under half the limit.”

      I question the validity of the above comment – you can still get a DUI……even under the limit.

      • idiocracyisnow

        TL, (and the others that have replied) I appreciate that your response is of a civil conversation instead of the insulting that others have done on this site.

        I understand the lowest common denominator concept, except I feel it’s being exploited. Since it is possible to arrest for DWIs under the limit, then why does the limit have to be so low? Seems like a big net.

        The point in most traffic laws made in recent years is to reduce deaths (at least the stated point). I would like to know how many people are killed by drivers in that .08-.10 range, and if that number has changed since lowering the limit.

        Boil my comment down to- Drinking != Drunk. Comments on this board make it sound like you are the stupidest person in the world if you sip a beer and then drive. Impairment? Sure, it’s possible and increasingly likely with more drinking. But there is a giant range in there.

        Maybe I’ll have to sign up for a ridealong.

        Who knows, maybe I’ve just never driven when I’m .08+. It’s entirely possible I’m defending the rights of really stupid people.

    • idiocracyisnow

      Something else I don’t agree with in the world of DWI laws is Minnesota’s DWI law- Where you can get arrested if you are even in eyeshot of your car with your keys. There should really be intent to drive.

      • TL

        Thats not true so Im not sure where you would have heard that…..

        Minnesota’s DWI law stipulates that it is a
        crime to drive, operate, or be in control of any
        motor vehicle anywhere in the state


        The key word is “be in control of any motor vehicle.” Being within earshot of a vehicle holding a set of keys is not being in control of a motor vehicle.

        Keep in mind that MN DUI laws arent really that much different from the other 49 states. Wording and punishment may vary slightly but by and large not alot of difference.

        • idiocracyisnow

          I remember the wording differently, but still, from 169A.20 subd.1-
          ” or be in physical control of any motor vehicle”

          Having your keys accessible to you in proximity of your vehicle puts you in physical control. (…I said EYEshot. ;-) ) Maybe most police wait for a person to step in the direction of their car… but keys = control.

          If that’s inline with other states, fine, then I don’t agree with any state’s DWI law on this.

  • Reailty

    DWI are only cash cows for local goverments. “The bottom line is, if we can find a reason to stop someone and check and see if they are impaired, we are going to do it,” Erickson said.

    That one statement say it all. Cops are told to make money for the local goverment. Hey why not start up DWI checkpoints. Oh wait they are illegal in Minnesota.

    • Dan

      Reality, What is the issue if you are pulled over and not above the legal bac? If all it takes to not get a DWI is that you cut back on your drinking if you are going to drive, what is the problem? I don’t understand where your issue lies? Also, with the statement from Erickson, do you think that it could be that they are actually trying to get people off the road that could definately be a danger to other drivers and pedestrians? They aren’t bringing people to jail and charging them with DWI unless they are above .08.

    • Get educated

      Are you an officer? I am training to become one at Metro State. This is my last semester and I have never once been told to make money for local government. If that was the case we wouldn’t issue any warnings, they would be all tickets.

  • idiocracyisnow

    DWI checkpoints- They can do seatbelt checkpoints. They don’t have to stop everyone, just set up a chokepoint where they can look at seatbelts, proper lighting, things hanging from mirrors and things attached to the windshield.

    • idiocracyisnow

      oops, this was a reply to Reailty.

  • Buzz Allnight

    I have been driving for 40 years.
    I have never had a problem with a drunk driver.
    I have nearly been killed twice by a highway patrol pulling out right in front of me from a ditch on a highway!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    “The bottom line is, if we can find a reason to stop someone and check and see if they are impaired, we are going to do it,” Erickson said.

    There are way too many stops.
    I has turned into harass all motorists at night!!!!!!!!!!

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