A Quick and Simple Guide for DUIs in Minnesota

If you’re wondering, “What happens if you get a DUI in Minnesota?” you’ve come to the right place. Whether you were charged with a DUI yourself or you know someone who was, it is a stressful and confusing situation to be in. In the state of Minnesota, DUI/DWI convictions are taken very seriously. However, if you know what to expect, how to navigate the conviction, and how to hire the right attorney, you can make well-informed decisions to help yourself as much as possible. 

Let’s explore what a DUI conviction means in Minnesota and what you should do about it. 

What Is a DUI? 

DUI is an acronym that stands for “driving under the influence.” The type of influence stated here specifically refers to alcohol. When a person is charged with a DUI, the prosecutor has to prove that the person driving was under the influence of alcohol. If a driver is pulled over and suspected of driving drunk, an officer will typically administer a breathalyzer to determine the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC). However, the driver can still be charged with a DUI without evidence from a breathalyzer. 

DUI vs. DWI In Minnesota

You have likely heard the terms DUI and DWI and may be confused about the distinction between the two. The meaning of DUI and what it takes to be charged with one was just explained. DWI means “driving while intoxicated.” While a DUI charge requires the prosecutor to prove that the driver was under the influence of alcohol, a DWI requires the prosecutor to prove that the driver was under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances. Although this distinction exists, in Minnesota, the two terms are used interchangeably because the state determined that the separate terms are too laborious to prove. 

The following criteria are used to determine whether or not a DUI or DWI charge is appropriate:

  • The driver has a BAC greater than or equal to .08% 
  • The driver is under the influence of any controlled substance, drug, or alcohol
  • It has been determined that the driver has a bodily content of a scheduled drug

What Are Minnesota’s DUI Degrees?

There are no national DUI standards. Each state establishes its own. For example, in Minnesota, a BAC of .08% or greater will result in a DUI, but it only takes a BAC of .05% or greater in the state of Utah. There are four degrees of DUI charges in Minnesota, and their penalties range from a misdemeanor to a felony. The charge an impaired driver receives depends on the damage caused by their behavior and their BAC, among other factors. 

First-Degree Charge

A first-degree charge is the most severe charge a person can receive for a DUI in Minnesota. Being convicted of a first-degree DUI is a felony, which negatively impacts every aspect of your life, from finding a job or housing to getting a loan. Not to mention, Minnesota law states that you can be on the hook for seven years in prison and up to $14,000 in fines. There are a few different ways a person can be convicted of a first-degree DUI:

  • The driver has been arrested for drunk driving four times in the last decade
  • The driver has received another felony DUI charge in their lifetime
  • The driver has been convicted of other criminal charges in their lifetime that are drug or alcohol-related

Second-Degree Charge

In Minnesota, the result of a second-degree DUI charge is a gross misdemeanor. While this is less severe than a felony, it cannot be expunged from your record for at least four years after the incident. A gross misdemeanor can still negatively affect your ability to get a job, housing, and loans while it remains on your record. According to Minnesota state law, a second-degree charge can mean up to one year in prison and $3,000 in fines. A person can be convicted if there are two or more aggravating factors involved in the current offense, such as:

  • BAC of .16 or more
  • A minor is in the vehicle
  • A prior DUI in the last decade

Third-Degree Charge

Like a second-degree charge, a third-degree also results in a gross misdemeanor on the driver’s record and will still negatively impact their life. Minnesota Statute 169A.26 states that third-degree DUI penalties are the same as the second-degree; up to one year in prison and a $3,000 fine. A driver earns a third-degree conviction if:

  • They’ve been charged with refusing tests
  • There is at least one aggravating factor attached to the current offense (see second-degree charge for aggravating offenses)

Fourth-Degree Charge

In the state of Minnesota, a fourth-degree charge stamps a misdemeanor on the driver’s record. A misdemeanor charge can negatively affect your life the same as a gross misdemeanor charge. Minnesota state law says that fourth-degree DUI charges result in up to ninety days in jail and a $1,000 fine. A person can be convicted of a fourth-degree DUI if:

  • They were driving under the influence
  • No other aggravating factors are involved 

MN DUI: What to Expect

If you’ve been convicted of a first offense DUI in Minnesota, you’re probably trying to figure out what will happen and how this will impact your life. If you’re wondering how much a DUI in Minnesota costs, that depends entirely on your conviction and your lawyer. Unfortunately, there is no straight answer to that question. No matter what degree DUI you’re charged with, it will change your life for the worse in many ways. 

  • Public Shame: When you’re arrested for a DUI, your mugshot is taken and will forever be very easy to find on the internet (for your friends, family, and potential employers).
  • Revoked Drivers License: A DUI conviction results in a suspended driver’s license. Some people can get a breath alcohol ignition locking device installed in their vehicle, but this comes with increased fees. 
  • DUI expenses: A DUI is expensive. Not only is there a fine that varies depending on the level of offense, but you may also need to pay for bail, impound costs, license reinstatement fees, and more.
  • Increased Insurance Costs: A DUI charge is sure to cause much higher insurance premiums and your provider might even drop you altogether because you’ve been labeled ‘high risk.’ It can take years for your prices to drop.
  • Child Custody and Travel Restrictions: If you’re going through a custody battle, a DUI charge may cause a judge to deem you an unfit parent. A DUI conviction also puts severe limitations on where you can travel while you’re on probation.
  • Financing Limitations: In addition to car insurance companies, most other important financial institutions review your criminal and credit histories before issuing loans, financing, and credit cards. 
  • School and Work Limitations: Whether you’re going to work or school, DUI makes it much more difficult for you to get where you need to be exactly when you need to be there because you don’t have your own reliable transportation. 

How to Navigate Your First DUI

Navigating your first DUI can be difficult and scary. You don’t know what to expect or how drawn out the process can become. To help you understand how to manage your first DUI, here is an outline of the process from the initial traffic stop to trial and sentencing. 

  1. Traffic stop – You’ve been pulled over and are suspected of drunk driving.
  2. Field sobriety tests – The officer will ask you to perform a series of tests like walk-and-turn, one-leg stand, and others. 
  3. Preliminary alcohol screening – You’ll be asked to take a breathalyzer test.
  4. Questioning by police – A police officer will read you your Miranda rights and ask you questions.
  5. Booking and release – You’ll either be booked into the system and released or booked into custody. If you’re taken into custody, you must remain there until your bail hearing.
  6. Arraignment and pre-trial meeting – After booking, you’ll be given an arraignment date where you will find out if your case will go to trial.
  7. Trial and sentencing – If your case goes to trial, you’ll be tried before a judge to determine your sentencing. 

Hiring The Right Attorney

Hiring the right attorney to handle your DUI can make all the difference. If you’ve been charged with a DUI, you’ve got to hire an attorney that specializes in DUI cases. What can a DUI attorney do for you?

  • Gather the right information and evidence
  • Provide professional representation and support
  • Help you correctly complete and submit the right paperwork
  • They’re updated on current DUI laws and charges

A DUI attorney is recommended after any DUI arrest. The sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner you can tell your story with the details fresh in your mind. Once you’ve been booked, you should call a local DUI attorney for free legal advice. They can protect your license from suspension and protect you from conviction when possible. Our experienced criminal law attorneys at CJB Law, will fight on your behalf. Don’t miss out on an opportunity for an attorney to minimize the damage of your run-in with the law. At CJB Law, we understand that bad things happen to good people all the time. It is our mission to help good people.