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What Class Misdemeanor Is a DWI in Minnesota?

According to Minnesota law, what class misdemeanor is a DWI depends on the circumstances. For most first-time offenders, a DWI arrest is treated as a misdemeanor. However, there are many factors including prior convictions that could cause a DWI to also be treated as a felony under the law.

What Are the Penalties for Misdemeanors in MN?

Misdemeanors carry lighter penalties compared to felony convictions. That does not mean the DWI consequences that follow these convictions will not have a dramatic negative impact on your life, career, or freedom.

If you’re wondering what class misdemeanor is a DWI in Minneapolis. the  attorneys at Gerald Miller are ready to fight for your rights. Whether you face a misdemeanor or felony DWI charge, the lawyers at Gerald Miller have the expertise you need. Our aggressive approach to DWI defense can put you into the best position possible to avoid a conviction. Call right away to discuss your case in detail.

DWI Aggravating Factors in Minneapolis MN

What class misdemeanor is a DWI versus a felony DWI depends on how many aggravating factors are present. There are four different classes of DWI offenses, with the presence of aggravating factors increasing the severity of a charge. The more aggravating factors are present, the higher tier of DWI offense you will face.

The most common aggravating factor is a prior conviction for DWI. However, the state will not count every previous conviction for these purposes. Minnesota has what is known as a 10-year “lookback period.” This means that, for DWI charging purposes, the prosecutor will only count convictions that occurred in the 10 years prior to the current arrest.

Another aggravating factor involves the presence of children in the car. The presence of a child under the age of 14 will lead to steeper penalties. The same is true for drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.20 or more at the time of their arrest. The refusal to submit a chemical test is not technically an aggravating factor. However, it essentially operates as one in most cases.

What Class Misdemeanor Is a DWI in Minneapolis

For the most part, Minnesota law treats first, second, and third DWI offenses as a misdemeanor. It is worth noting, however, that in Minnesota there is a higher form of criminal offense known as a gross misdemeanor. These charges carry much steeper penalties even though they are not felonies. A gross misdemeanor carries up to a year in prison, while a standard misdemeanor results in a maximum jail term of 90 days. A gross misdemeanor also carries steeper fines. The maximum fine for a gross misdemeanor is $3,000 compared to a $1,000 fine that comes with a standard misdemeanor.

A first or second DWI becomes a gross misdemeanor with one or more aggravating factors. When it comes to a third DWI conviction in 10 years, the state will automatically treat the charge as a gross misdemeanor.

When DWIs Are Felonies in Minnesota

There are multiple ways that you could face a felony DWI charge in Minnesota. When a defendant has three prior DWI convictions in the past 10 years, the state will view the fourth charge as a felony.

Aggravating Factors and DWIs in Minneapolis

Unlike misdemeanor offenses, aggravating factors do not impact a felony DWI. There are other circumstances that can lead to a felony charge, however. Any person that has ever been convicted of a felony DWI in the past will face felony DWI charges for any arrest in the future. This is true even if some of their prior convictions are no longer within the 10-year lookback period.

Penalties for a Felony DWI Conviction

The penalties for a felony DWI conviction are much steeper than a misdemeanor offense. A conviction includes up to seven years in state prison as well as a maximum fine of $14,000. A felony conviction also comes with collateral consequences including the loss of voting rights, difficulty maintaining employment, and the loss of the right to own a firearm.

How a DWI Attorney Could Help with a Misdemeanor DWI

An experienced Minneapolis DWI defense attorney as the tools to help you fight DWI charges, using the best defense for your circumstances.

Investigating the Arrest

A thorough investigation into the facts of a DWI arrest is often the foundation for a successful outcome. The attorneys of Gerald Miller understand what goes into carefully investigating these cases. Our teams carefully evaluates all of the evidence in your case, from test results to video. After our investigation, we can advise you on your options and help you understand what to expect from the process.

Negotiating a Plea Bargain

The reality is that many DWI cases end in a plea bargain. However, the work of our firm is not done even when the evidence against you is strong. In many cases, we can negotiate the most favorable plea bargain possible. A strong plea agreement could keep you out of jail, limit your fines, and potentially see secondary charges against you dismissed entirely.

Negotiating plays an important role in the plea bargain process. That is because not every offer made by the state is reasonable. In many cases, the state will offer little incentive to plead guilty as opposed to taking your chances at trial. Our team of experienced attorneys could not only negotiate on your behalf but also provide you with insight into why an offer is right for you or not.

Reducing a DWI Charge in Minneapolis

Another situation where our firm could potentially improve the outcome of your DWI case is by negotiating a lower charge. Remember: there are two types of misdemeanor. The potential criminal liability you are facing with a gross misdemeanor is much higher compared to a standard misdemeanor. For that reason, it could benefit you to reduce the maximum penalties you face at trial by seeking a reduction in charges.

A state prosecutor is unlikely to reduce the charges against you out of the goodness of their own heart. Instead, it could take evidence that shows the degree of DWI you are facing is inappropriate. This is most common in cases where the state miscalculates whether a prior conviction falls within your 10-year look-back period or not. If your attorney can show the state is improperly relying on a prior conviction to upgrade your charge, it could result in a reduction of the charges against you. This type of reduction could be enough to keep you from serving any time behind bars even if you are ultimately convicted at trial.

Filing a Motion to Dismiss in Minneapolis

There is little doubt that the best possible outcome following a DWI arrest is a dismissal of all charges. A dismissal is possible if the prosecutor reaches the conclusion that there is little chance of a conviction at trial.

Generally speaking, there are two defense strategies that often lead to a full dismissal. The first involves challenging the basis of the traffic stop. The police do not have the right to pull you over for no reason. If they lack reasonable suspicion that you were committing a traffic offense or other criminal act at the time they pulled you over, the stop was illegal. Our attorneys could file a motion to exclude any evidence collected following the unlawful traffic stop.

A second option is to challenge the results of your blood, breath, or urine test. These test results are only admissible at trial if the state follow the proper procedure in collecting and testing the sample. If the police make a mistake when transporting the sample to the lab, testing the results, or collecting the sample, our firm could have the results excluded from trial.

Taking Your Case to Trial in Minneapolis

Most DWI cases never go before a jury. That said, our approach is to prepare every single DWI case as if it were certain to go to trial. This approach not only puts you in the best position should your case go to trial, but it is also likely to help you secure a favorable outcome early on in the case as well.

While the thought of a criminal trial might be stressful, it is often the best option when facing DWI charges. Our attorneys will work tirelessly to ensure you are prepared for your day in court.

Speak with a Minneapolis DWI Defense Lawyer About Your DWI Case

While you might be interested in what class misdemeanor is a DWI, know that any conviction can have a negative impact on your quality of life. Thankfully, the lawyers at Gerald Miller have a track record of prevailing in DWI trials in the State of Minnesota. Our team is ready to aggressively pursue a favorable outcome to your case. From investigating your charge to advocating on your behalf at trial, we are prepared to guide you through the criminal justice process. Call Gerald Miller at (612) 440-4608 right away to schedule your free consultation.


This article was originally published on November 25, 2020 and updated on June 21, 2021.

About the author

Kyle Dreger

Kyle Dreger is a skilled DUI/DWI and Criminal Defense lawyer at Gerald Miller P.A. Kyle has received his law degree from the University of St. Thomas School of Law. He is also a professionally trained basketball player.

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