If you got caught driving after drinking too much alcohol or taking drugs, you may be worried about the consequences you could face. If law enforcement catches those who are visibly impaired driving and they exceed the alcohol threshold for legal driving, they may face charges for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI).
If you have received DWI charges, depending on the level of severity, you could be looking at anything from a misdemeanor to a felony. In this case, your smartest first step is to set up a consultation with an attorney that specializes in DWI cases. The lawyers at CJB Law are experienced, professional, and can help you with your case. Here is what you can expect as a first-time offender.
Not All DWI Charges Are Equal
In Minnesota, several factors impact the severity of DWI charges you face. If any aggravating circumstances were involved, you could be looking at felony charges or, at best, a gross misdemeanor. Aggravating circumstances include exceedingly high blood alcohol concentration, being involved in an accident alone or with another vehicle, or causing bodily injury.
In most cases, though, DWI charges will qualify as a misdemeanor. Your behavior can also impact the severity. If you cooperate with law enforcement, they may include that in their report. This can impact the degree and extent of any penalties, keeping you from receiving a heavier sentence.
A misdemeanor is a crime that results in less than 12 months of incarceration. If you operate a vehicle while impaired in Minnesota, this misdemeanor typically means facing up to 90 days in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. In most cases, the court does not consider jail time for first-time offenders. The charge of a simple misdemeanor can be elevated to a gross misdemeanor if any of the following applies:
- Driver refused chemical blood alcohol concentration test
- Driver had a passenger with them under the age of 16
- Driver had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.16 or greater
A felony offense has different classifications but generally refers to any penalty that includes incarceration for over one year. If the court convicts and sentences you with a felony charge for driving impaired, you would receive a minimum sentence of one year in jail.
DWI Charges Classifications in Minnesota
Minnesota employs the following classifications for its charge of driving a vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol:
- Misdemeanor of the Fourth Degree: Driver charged with DWI for the first time with no aggravating circumstances
- Misdemeanor of the Third Degree: Driver is first time offender with one aggravating factor, or the driver refused a breathalyzer or blood alcohol concentration chemical test
- Misdemeanor of the Second Degree: First-time offender with two aggravating circumstances, and the driver refused the breath or chemical tests
- First-Degree Felony: Driver has multiple aggravating circumstances and caused an accident resulting in bodily injury or death.
A prosecuting attorney will review every case separately. They will then decide whether to follow the police recommendation for charges, drop charges, reduce charges, or elevate charges based on their interpretation of the events that caused the arrest.
DWI Penalties in Minnesota
If you receive a conviction for a first-offense DWI in Minnesota, the following penalties could be applied:
- Driving privilege revoked and license suspended until conditions are met
- License or vehicle confiscation
- A maximum of $3,000 in fines
- Up to 90 days in jail (if a misdemeanor)
- Up to a year in jail (if a gross misdemeanor)
- Probation, including completing mandatory community service and coursework
A judge may impose any combination of penalties for any case. They can also determine the length of time for license suspensions and the total amount of fines for an individual operating a vehicle while impaired.
Judges cannot exceed the legal maximum regarding incarceration. A judge cannot sentence you to more than 90 days in jail for a misdemeanor and cannot sentence you to more than one year in jail for a gross misdemeanor.
The judge will also consider mitigating factors when considering penalties. These can include economic hardship, circumstances leading to the arrest, the ability of the convicted to remain employed during punishment, and other circumstances that may affect how severe the punishment is. They are not legally obligated to do so, however.
There are also other penalties associated with a DWI conviction, including:
- Higher vehicle insurance premiums
- Employment issues, including termination of employment
- Significant financial consequences (which can range in the thousands of dollars)
- Driving-related issues, such as getting to work, upholding appointments, etc.
A DWI conviction can also affect hiring prospects, excluding you from consideration for some jobs. In addition, there may be some negative consequences to your public reputation.
What Should I Do if Facing DWI Charges?
If you drive a vehicle while impaired, you should be aware that DWI charges are a real possibility. Fortunately, while serious, the penalties for a first offender will not sentence you to years in jail. You can expect a suspension of your driving privileges and a fine at a minimum.
The best thing to do in this situation is to hire a competent DWI attorney.
A professional lawyer from CJB Law can help you with your case to minimize your sentence. Contact us today!