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How Long Does DWI Stay on Record in Minnesota?

If you’re asking how long does DWI stay on record in Minnesota, unfortunately there is no simple answer. In some ways, law enforcement will always have access to any records of your arrest and conviction. While there may a record of your DWI somewhere for the rest of your life, the ability of the record to impact your life can diminish over time.

In fact, state law now allows for DWI expungements in some cases. An expungement could remove the records related to your DWI conviction from public view, allowing you to answer truthfully on job applications that you have not been convicted of a crime. Contact the attorneys of Gerald Miller to learn more about the impact of a DWI conviction.

Minnesota’s Look-back Period

While a conviction for DWI can cause serious problems in your search for housing or employment, the most significant consequence of a conviction is its impact on future DWI arrests. In many cases, prior convictions could greatly increase the maximum penalty of a new DWI arrest. In fact, a prior DWI conviction is the most important factor in determining the sentencing range for a new offense.

That said, the prosecution may not consider every DWI you have ever been convicted of. When you’re asking how long does DWI stay on record in Minnesota, this is a factor to consider. Under state law, only convictions that have occurred in the previous 10 years are considered. This is known as the state’s “look-back” period.

While the 10-year look-back period can see the consequences of a future arrest diminish over time, that does not mean the record of your conviction goes away. Unfortunately, a DWI conviction will remain on both your criminal and driving record forever. This means that future background checks will turn up the record of your arrest and conviction, even though it cannot be used against you during sentencing any further.


For years, expungement was never a possibility for DWI convictions under Minnesota state law. For the most part, expungements were difficult to come by in general. The good news is that in 2015, Minnesota law changed. These changes now allow expungements for certain offenses under very specific circumstances.

Expungements are not available until a person has competed their sentence entirely. This requires more than just finishing up any jail time that was ordered. It also includes the completion of any probation as well. Often, a person could face substantial probation even though they do not spend much time behind bars.

Minnesota Expungement Time Requirement

A person may not seek an expungement the moment they complete their sentence. The amount of time a person must wait depends on the specific type of criminal offense involved. This varies, as a DWI could be a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or felony. A person must wait for two years following a misdemeanor to seek an expungement. For gross misdemeanors, that time limit is years.

Consider an example. A person was arrested and convicted of a gross misdemeanor DWI. That person was sentenced to 30 days in jail and year of probation. The person must complete the 30 days in jail and then finish the year of probation before the time limit begins to run. Once probation is complete, this individual would have to wait an additional four years to file their petition. Additionally, they must also avoid any new criminal offenses while waiting for the expungement.

While these changes are good news for many people, the reality is that many expungements will be denied. The courts retain substantial discretion to grant these petitions or not. For many, meeting the minimum requirements for an expungement will not be enough.

Why Prior DWI Convictions in Minnesota Matter

The amount of time a DWI conviction stays on your record matters in a number of ways. First and foremost, a criminal record can follow you for the rest of your life. Your conviction could make it difficult to secure employment or maintain a professional license. Many of these consequences can remain longer after any jail time is served and fines are paid.

Enhanced DWI Penalties

One of the most important ways a prior DWI conviction could impact your life is by enhancing the penalties of a subsequent DWI arrest. In Minnesota, subsequent DWI arrests and convictions carrier stiffer sentencing guidelines. While a first-offense is a misdemeanor that is unlikely to result in additional jail time, multiple prior convictions could lead to a felony charge and a lengthy prison term. The penalties for multiple DWI convictions in Minnesota include:

  • Second Offense. For a second DUI offense, a misdemeanor conviction could carry as much as 90 days in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. These maximum penalties increase to one year and $3,000 in cases where your BAC registers 0.16 or higher. The refusal to take a breathalyzer test could also increase the maximum penalty range. The court has the power to exchange some of the jail time with home monitoring or workhouse incarceration.
  • Third Offense. A third DUI during the 10-year lookback period is also considered a misdemeanor under Minnesota law. Unlike a second offense, the penalties do not vary depending on your BAC results or your refusal to submit to a chemical test. A conviction for a third DWI in ten years carries a maximum of one year in jail and a fine of no more $3,000.
  • Fourth or Subsequent Offense. If you have four or more prior DUI convictions in the last ten years, you can expect the penalties to be substantial. Unlike other offenses, the state treats these DUI convictions as felonies. Felony DUI carries up to seven years in state prison upon a conviction and a maximum fine of $14,000.

Avoiding a Conviction By Fighting MN DWI Charges

Given the long-standing consequences of a prior DUI conviction, your best option is to fight back against that conviction in the first place. Many people that are charged with their first-offense DUI assume that a conviction is inevitable. Nothing could be further from the truth. Each year, individuals face off against the prosecution and prevail in DUI trials across Minnesota. The attorneys at Gerald Miller can help you prepare a defense and fight back against the charges you are facing.

Common DWI Strategies in MN

In general, there are two strategies that are commonly used in DUI cases. The first option involves attacking the police stop. If the police violated your constitutional rights when they pulled you over, your attorney could move to exclude any evidence they obtain.

The second common defense strategy involves attacking the results of a chemical test. If your attorney can have the results of a blood, breath, or urine test thrown out at trial the evidence against you could be thin. It is possible to exclude these test results when the samples are taken unlawfully or outside of the bounds of state guidelines. For example, breathalyzer machine operators must have a certification that is renewed regularly. If your attorney determines the sample was collected by an officer whose certification was expired, they could use that to attack the test result.

Talk to a Minneapolis DWI Defense Lawyer About Avoiding a Conviction

The existence of expungement options and a look-back period is good news for Minnesota motorists facing DWI charges. While these factors are helpful, they are only minor benefits compared to the steep consequences of a DWI conviction.

If you’ve been charged but not yet convicted of a DWI, you may be wondering how long does DWI stay on record in Minnesota. Given what is at stake, your best option is to avoid a DWI conviction entirely. DWI cases are often defensible, and our team has extensive experience taking on the prosecution and winning. Let the attorneys of Gerald Miller advise you of your defense options. To get started, schedule your free consultation right away.

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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