Like many states throughout the country, Minnesota has varying DWI degrees for those arrested for being under the influence of alcohol or different controlled substances while operating a motor vehicle. Anyone can be charged for a DWI when they least expect it, and it’s often life-changing, even if it’s your first offense. Suppose you’ve recently been arrested for a DWI. In that case, it’s time to seek guidance from an experienced criminal law attorney so you can be adequately represented and get the best possible outcome.
What Is a DWI?
Depending on the state you reside in, the acronyms DUI or DWI may or may not be familiar. In many locations, there is a distinct difference between the two; however, like the state of Minnesota, in some areas, they are used interchangeably. The acronym DWI is an abbreviation for “Driving While Intoxicated,” while the acronym DUI is an abbreviation for “Driving Under the Influence.” If you find yourself being charged with a DUI, a specific alcohol level isn’t required. Instead, the prosecuting official is required to prove that the driver is impaired because of alcohol. If you find yourself being charged with a DWI, the prosecuting official must prove that the driver is impaired because of alcohol or another controlled substance while operating a vehicle. You can be charged with a DWI in the state of Minnesota if one or more of the following guidelines are met:
- Driving, operating, or being in control of any motor vehicle while under the influence of an alcoholic, hazardous, or controlled substance
- Blood alcohol (BCA) level reading over the legal limit (.08) with a breath, urine, or blood test for up to two hours following being stopped by law enforcement
- Any amount of controlled substances being found in the driver’s system
How Can a DWI Affect You?
Getting charged with a DWI is life-changing and will likely affect areas of your life you didn’t even know it could. It’s crucial to become familiar with the various degrees of DWI charges, possible penalties, and how life will change in the short and long-term. Not only will those you love and include in your social group learn of your DWI charge, but potential employers and other keynote individuals may also be informed. Each DWI case is different as a situation is rarely identical to another, but those charged with a first-time DWI are likely to spend up to $10,000 on required expenses. Some expenses include DWI education programs, probation fees, impound costs, and more. A few examples of areas in your life that will be impacted by a DWI charge are as follows:
- Public Humiliation
- Revoked Driving Privileges
- Depleted Savings
- Skyrocketed Car Insurance
- Impacted Child Custody
- Inconvenient Travel Restrictions
- Financing Limitations
- Hindered Employment and School Opportunities
Driving While Impaired in Minnesota
DWI charges and penalties vary throughout the United States depending on individual state laws and your offense’s severity. In Minnesota, there are four charges those driving while impaired can receive, ranging from a felony and gross misdemeanor to a misdemeanor. Below you’ll find an outline of the state of Minnesota’s driving while impaired charges along with the penalties one may receive.
First-Degree Driving While Impaired
A first-degree driving while impaired charge is considered a felony in the state of Minnesota. If you’ve received four DWI charges within the past ten years or have previously received a felony DWI charge, you can be charged under the first-degree. Those charged with first-degree driving while impaired are subject to penalties of up to seven years in prison and fines of up to $14,000. (MN Stat § 169A.24)
Second-Degree Driving While Impaired
A second-degree driving while impaired charge is considered a gross misdemeanor in the state of Minnesota. If you have a previous DWI charge within the past ten years, the current offense includes two or more aggravating factors, or a minor is in your vehicle, you can be charged under the second-degree. Those charged with second-degree driving while impaired are subject to penalties of up to one year in prison and fines of up to $3,000. (MN Stat § 169A.25)
Third-Degree Driving While Impaired
A third-degree driving while impaired charge is also considered a gross misdemeanor in the state of Minnesota. If you have been charged with a test refusal or the current offense includes one or more aggravating factors, you can be charged under the third-degree. Those charged with third-degree driving while impaired are subject to penalties of up to one year in prison, fines of up to $3,000, and an allotted mandatory jail sentence of the judge’s discretion. (MN Stat § 169A.26)
Fourth-Degree Driving While Impaired
A fourth-degree driving while impaired charge is considered a misdemeanor in the state of Minnesota. If the current offense includes no aggravating factors, you can be charged under the fourth-degree. Those charged with fourth-degree driving while impaired are subject to up to 90 days in prison and fines of up to $1,000. (MN Stat § 169A.27)
How Can an Attorney Help You?
DWI law is often complicated to navigate and is continuously changing. While you are entitled to represent yourself in a DWI trial, it can be very challenging for someone with limited legal experience to assess a DWI case’s strengths and weaknesses and adequately represent themselves. Because of the complexity of DWI cases, those charged with a DWI offense need to be represented correctly, so the best possible outcome can be achieved.
Many experienced attorneys offer free consultations to prospective clients, so you can have your police report and other essential case documents reviewed and receive guidance on your case. It’s suggested to have questions prepared for your attorney as this will help you further understand your situation. If you’ve been charged with a DWI, getting assistance from an attorney experienced in these matters will be extremely beneficial. They will be able to locate weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and bring any mitigating factors to the prosecutor’s attention.
Becoming familiar with Minnesota’s DWI degrees and the possible penalties is extremely important, especially if you’ve recently been arrested and are facing charges. While the life you know will be impacted and change drastically, there is an end in sight if you have assistance from an experienced criminal law attorney. If you’ve discovered your case is going to trial, it’s time to seek legal guidance immediately.