If you have been arrested under suspicion of driving while impaired (DWI), the severity of the charge will depend on the circumstances. In some situations, a DWI case could be treated as a felony under state law.
The distinction between felony and misdemeanor DWI is important, as it could make the difference between avoiding jail time entirely or spending years in state prison. A felony conviction could have a lasting impact on you and your family.
There are multiple ways to fight back against a felony DWI case. Not only could you seek an acquittal of all charges, but it also might be possible to convince the state to reduce the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor. Talk to the attorneys of Gerald Miller to learn more about your options.
What makes a DWI a felony in Eden Prairie?
As a baseline, state law treats a DWI as a misdemeanor for first-time offenders. The law also recognizes something known as aggravating factors. The more of these factors that are present, the steeper the penalties that come with a conviction. Our firm could help you fight back against a felony DWI case based on any of these factors.
The penalties for a felony DWI are substantially higher. While a misdemeanor DWI conviction carries a maximum sentence of one year in county jail, a felony conviction could lead to time in state prison. A felony conviction carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison—more than 14 times the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor. The following factors could result in a DWI being treated as a felony in Eden Prairie:
Three Prior Misdemeanor Convictions
The most common way for the state to bring a felony DWI case is when the defendant has three or more misdemeanor DWI convictions on their record. There is an important caveat however, as the state can only consider prior convictions during what is known as the “lookback” period. The lookback period is 10 years prior to the arrest in the defendant’s current DWI case. Under the law, a person will only face felony DWI charges if they have three prior convictions that occurred within that 10-year period. In other words, a person could continue to face misdemeanor DWI charges despite countless prior convictions if they are spaced out so that three offenses never occurred in a 10-year period.
Prior Felony DWI Conviction
A defendant could also face felony DWI charges if they have previously been convicted of felony DWI. This is important, as it essentially eliminates the lookback period for future DWI cases. A driver that had a felony DWI conviction decades ago would still face felony charges for a new DWI arrest.
Prior Felony Conviction
The final situation that could lead to a felony DWI case involves a prior felony conviction other than DWI. Not every felony conviction qualifies, however. Instead, this only applies to prior criminal convictions for felony vehicular operation cases. For example, a person who has been convicted for criminal vehicular homicide would face a felony DWI charge—even for their first offense.
How to Reduce a Felony to a Misdemeanor
Humans make mistakes, and the police and prosecutors are only human. It is not uncommon for the state to make an error when reviewing a defendant’s criminal history and deciding if the DWI charge they are facing is a felony or a misdemeanor.
This often occurs when the state is pursuing a felony based on three previous misdemeanor DWI convictions. If the prosecutor miscalculates and counts a prior conviction that occurred, our firm could identify that mistake and press them to reduce the charges against you.
Contact an Attorney About Your Felony DWI Case In Eden Prairie
Any DWI conviction could have a major impact on your life, but a felony conviction could turn it upside down. In addition to the threat of jail time and steep fines, you could also face long-term challenges maintaining employment or finding suitable housing.
The good news is that these consequences only become a reality if you are convicted. The attorneys of Gerald Miller are ready to help you fight back. Call right away for a free consultation to discuss your options.