Drunk driving in Minnesota, called DWI, is a criminal offense that can change someone’s life if they are convicted. Every state has tough enforcement of strict, and sometimes very restrictive, penalties.
For residents of Fergus Falls and throughout Minnesota, it is important to understand the process and what to expect if you are stopped on suspicion of a DWI. Also, knowing where to turn if you or a loved one has been arrested is essential in order to have effective criminal defense against conviction, or at least to minimize the most serious penalties.
What are the penalties for DWI?
The “per se” blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is 0.08%, and underage drivers have a zero tolerance BAC of 0.00%. Penalties for a first-time DWI offense in Minnesota can include loss of license for a minimum of 30 days and possible jail time. The cost of arrest and conviction can be as high as $20,000 when including fines, loss of driving privileges, court costs, legal fees and heightened insurance premiums.
Those who are at twice the legal limit (BAC of 0.16% or higher) at the time of their first arrest, as well as second-time offenders, are required to use ignition interlock or face the loss of driving privileges for up to two years. The average BAC level for a DWI arrest in Minnesota is 0.15%.
There are also implied consent laws in the state regarding submitting to a BAC test. Just as all 50 states, this means that driving on a public road in Minnesota is a privilege and not a right, so drivers are implicitly consenting to a breath test if they are pulled over. Refusal to submit to this test is a crime that will incur additional penalties.
Building a defense against a DWI
At the time that the officer pulls a driver over, they do not yet have any hard evidence that the driver is intoxicated. Everything they do from that moment on, from observing bloodshot eyes, erratic behavior or slurred speech to administering field sobriety or breath tests, is done in order to gather enough evidence to support a subsequent arrest and conviction.
Depending on the circumstances of each case, it is possible to question the legality of the arrest, that the officer did not properly administer the breath test or that it resulted in a false-positive BAC level from the use of an inhaler or mouthwash, or that there was a non-alcoholic reason for impairment or unusual behavior. Fighting the charges can help minimize the damage done to your life in a DWI conviction.