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How Long Does a DWI Stay on Record in Minneapolis?

The consequences of a DWI conviction could follow you for the rest of your life. This is possible, in part, because in most cases your DWI conviction will remain on your record forever. Motorists dreaming of a break on their car insurance may hope for that conviction to eventually roll off their driving record, but the sad reality is that for most people that day will never come.

The good news is that while a DWI conviction might stay on your record forever, there is only a limited window in which the state can use that conviction to enhance future DWI charges against you.

Ask any credible DWI Defense attorney in Minneapolis, and they will tell you that the best way to avoid future complications is to obtain an acquittal in your DWI case. While no attorney can guarantee your acquittal, the right legal counsel could maximize your chances of a favorable outcome. Call the DWI attorneys at Gerald Miller right away to learn how they can help with your case.

The Permanency of a DWI Conviction in Minneapolis

Under most circumstances, a DWI conviction will stay on your record forever. Your arrest and conviction could be present on background checks for the rest of your life even if you never get so much as a speeding ticket afterward. The permanent status of these convictions extends beyond DWI charges, reaching implied consent violations as well.

The lone bright spot is that while a conviction will show up on your driving record, prosecutors will be unable to use it to enhance a future DWI conviction after a set amount of time. Prior convictions play a role in determining the severity of a DWI charge, but the state may only count those that occurred within 10 years of the current offense. In other words, older DWI convictions may be problematic for you, but they won’t result in steeper penalties should you get arrested for DWI years later.

Minnesota’s “Look-Back” Period

There is one reason why having a prior DWI conviction on your record might not impact you should face future DWI arrests. While state law allows the prosecutor to increase the severity of DWI charges against an individual with prior convictions, these convictions must have occurred during what is known as the “look-back” period. The look-back period covers 10 years from the date of the most recent DWI arrest.

When prosecutors bring DWI charges, the number of prior misdemeanor convictions will determine the degree of the offense. While misdemeanor convictions that occurred more than 10 years prior will not elevate a charge, the judge could rely on the prior conviction when determining a sentence.

There is an important exception to the state’s look-back period. While this deadline applies to misdemeanor charges, there is no look-back period for prior felony DWI convictions. This is important, as anyone with a prior felony DWI conviction will automatically be charged with an additional felony offense if they are arrested under suspicion of DWI in the future. Consider the following example. A driver is convicted of felony DWI in 1990. For the next 30 years, that person is not arrested once. Despite not having any convictions for DWI during the look-back period, a subsequent DWI arrest would result in a felony charge given the felony DWI offense on their record.

Understanding the look-back period is vital when it comes to defending against DWI charges. The attorneys of Gerald Miller will carefully review your record to determine if the prosecutors in your case have brought appropriate criminal charges. In cases where the state has relied on misdemeanor convictions that are outside of the ten-year look-back period, our team could have your charges reduced.

Consequences of a DWI on Your Record in Minneapolis

The potential consequences of a DWI on your driving record are substantial, even beyond the possibility of the state using it to enhance a future DWI charge. Long after you pay your fines or serve your time, a DWI conviction could impede your efforts to improve your quality of life. Some of the ways a DWI on your driving record can impact your life include:

  • Difficulty Maintaining Employment. The state cannot use an old DWI charge against you, but that does not mean your employer shares those limitations. There are no protections based on prior criminal history, which means an employer could deny you a job or fire you from a position you currently hold.
  • Housing Problems. Like employers, landlords also make frequent use of background checks. Also like employers, they are free to discriminate based on the criminal history of an applicant.
  • Higher Insurance Premiums. A conviction for DWI can wreak havoc on your insurance premiums. While each carrier addresses high-risk drivers differently, some policies will continue penalizing you for a DWI conviction in perpetuity.
  • College Application Problems. Colleges and universities run standard background checks for anyone applying to undergraduate or graduate degrees. While an old DWI conviction may not act as a bar to your selection for higher education, it could be a factor that limits your opportunities among schools. A conviction could also hamper your access to scholarship funds.

Depending on your case facts, an experienced DWI Lawyer in Minneapolis can help minimize and even beat your charges and their consequences.

DWI Expungement Options in Minneapolis

For years, individuals with a DWI conviction were out of luck when it came to clearing the conviction from their criminal record. That changed in 2015 when the Minnesota legislature loosened some of the restrictions on expungement. The right to expunge a criminal conviction is not absolute, and only certain DWI convictions will be considered.

Expungement is only available in Minnesota for misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors, low-level felonies, and juvenile delinquency. As well-practiced Minneapolis DWI Defense lawyers, we know that there are a series of requirements even for cases that fall into those categories.

First and foremost, it should be noted that an expungement is only an option for someone that has completed their sentence entirely. This means that mandatory jail time was served, fines and restitution were paid, and any probation or parole has been completed. Once the sentence has been served, expungement may be an option.

In total, there are 12 factors that the court must consider when hearing an expungement request. These factors are written into law in Minnesota Statute Section 609A.03.

  1. The nature and severity of the underlying crime, the record of which would be sealed
  2. The risk, if any, the petitioner poses to individuals or society
  3. The length of time since the crime occurred
  4. The steps were taken by the petitioner toward rehabilitation following the crime
  5. Aggravating or mitigating factors relating to the underlying crime, including the petitioner’s level of participation and context and circumstances of the underlying crime
  6. The reasons for the expungement, including the petitioner’s attempts to obtain employment, housing, or other necessities
  7. The petitioner’s criminal record
  8. The petitioner’s record of employment and community involvement
  9. The recommendations of interested law enforcement, prosecutorial, and corrections officials
  10. The recommendations of victims or whether victims of the underlying crime were minors
  11. The amount, if any, of restitution outstanding, past efforts made by the petitioner toward payment, and the measures in place to help ensure completion of restitution payment after expungement of the record if granted
  12. Other factors deemed relevant by the court

The court will weigh each of these claims when making its decision on an expungement petition. An experienced DWI attorney in Minneapolis could work to demonstrate that each of the 12 elements points towards the necessity of an expungement.

Avoiding a DWI Conviction in Minneapolis

There are steps our attorneys can take to reduce the impact of a prior conviction at sentencing. Likewise, there are limited circumstances where expungement might be an option. However, your best chance for a favorable outcome in your DWI case comes from avoiding a conviction altogether. By beating the charge against you, there is no reason to worry about how long a conviction might remain on your record. Remember: you will only face the consequences of a DWI if you are found guilty. With an aggressive approach, you and your legal team could fight back against these charges.


If you have been arrested for DWI, the best outcome possible for your case is a dismissal of all charges. While dismissals are not uncommon, prosecutors will not simply drop a DWI charge for no good reason. Usually, the state agrees to dismiss a case they understand they cannot win. This usually occurs when the defense attorney builds a defense that is too strong to overcome at trial.

Many cases are dismissed upon the motion of the defense attorney. These motions could be based on a number of factors. One of the most common factors that can lead to dismissal is an unlawful traffic stop. If the police pull you over without reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime, your attorney could have the evidence against you thrown out.

The same is true of cases where your blood, breath, or urine sample was not handled properly. Your attorney could exclude the results of these tests if the handling of the sample did not meet state guidelines.


Sometimes a dismissal by the prosecutor is not an option. If your efforts to exclude some or all of the evidence against you is unsuccessful, the prosecution is unlikely to voluntarily dismiss the charges against you. If the terms of the plea bargain offered to you are not appealing, taking your case to trial might be the only option.

Earning an acquittal at trial can be challenging. Many juries are predisposed to believe the testimony of an officer, even when the evidence of intoxication is thin. The good news is that your attorney could work diligently to show the jury that there is not enough evidence to convict you of these charges.

The attorneys of Gerald Miller understand what it takes to build a winning trial strategy. We will work to ensure the jury understands the burden is on the prosecutor to prove your guilt. More often than not, the state will struggle to meet that burden.

Craft Your Defense with a Skilled Minnesota DWI Defense Lawyer

The options for removing a DWI conviction from your record are limited. In the end, the best way to safeguard your future is to avoid a DWI conviction altogether. By fighting back against these charges, you could earn an acquittal and keep your criminal record clear. Contact the attorneys at Gerald Miller right away at (612) 440-4610 to discuss your options during a free consultation.

Related Content: Why Should I Hire a DUI Lawyer in Minneapolis?

About the author

Gerald Miller

Gerald Miller is a top-notch and experienced DWI/DUI lawyer at Gerald Miller P.A. in Minneapolis, MN. He has more than 35 years of experience in Criminal Defense practice. He has also been a mentor to numerous DUI/DWI defense attorneys.

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