MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Changes in the penalties for drunken driving could affect thousands of motorists in Minnesota who get behind the wheel while heavily intoxicated.

The threshold for a gross misdemeanor driving offense was lowered this year by the Legislature to a blood-alcohol concentration of .16 percent. The decision to drop that threshold by .04 percentage point could result in nearly 3,000 more gross misdemeanor DWI offenses each year.

The change also carries maximum one-year jail terms, up from 90 days under the misdemeanor standard, and triples the current $1,000 maximum fine.

Some lawyers representing DWI offenders say the lower threshold is too punitive, while supporters say it will help save lives.

One out of every seven drivers licensed in Minnesota has at least one DWI.