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How Long Does a DWI Stay on Your Criminal Record in Minnesota?

We all make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes involve getting behind the wheel after a drink or two. Before you know it, police lights are flashing and you realize your life is about to change – and not for the better.

Unfortunately, the impact of a DWI citation goes far beyond getting pulled over by the police and the subsequent court appearances.

Curious about how to get a DWI off your driving record in MN? For Minnesota drivers who are convicted of drunk driving, a DWI on their records can feel like “Groundhog Day,” a phrase taken from the 1993 film starring Bill Murray where a TV weatherman finds himself repeating the same day over and over again. That’s because a DWI conviction can stay on your driving record forever.

A DWI Conviction Remains on Your Record Forever

If it seems unfair– it is. Even a bankruptcy will fall off your credit report after a decade, allowing people to eventually move on from financial struggles that had plagued them and caused trouble in the first place.  But under current Minnesota law, a DWI or DUI arrest and conviction will remain a black mark on your driving record until the day you die. That idea alone is cringe-worthy at best.

It’s important that you contact a Minnesota DWI attorney if you’ve been cited for a DWI. You can’t fight it alone, especially since most people want nothing more than to move on as quickly as possible after being cited for a DWI in Minnesota.

They want to forget it happened, so they can focus on the future.

But it can be challenging to move forward with a DWI on your permanent record. It’s a black mark. It can affect your ability to get a job. Some companies may see a DWI conviction as a lack of responsibility or foreshadowing of alcoholism and addiction. Criminal records, including DWI convictions, are disclosed on all kinds of background checks – and Minnesota is a state that allows a would-be boss to avoid hiring a person based on his or her criminal background.

Understanding the Lookback Period in Minnesota

While it remains true that a DWI will generally remain on your record forever, it is important to understand that the impact that conviction could have on your life could diminish somewhat over time. This is thanks to something known as a “lookback” period.

A lookback period is a limitation on state prosecutors who are pursuing DWI charges against someone other than a first-time offender. The severity of a DWI offense is governed primarily by the number of previous convictions you have. The more convictions on your record, the steeper the penalties for each subsequent DWI.

In some states, prosecutors are allowed to count every prior DWI conviction when making this calculation. That is not the case in Minnesota. Under Minnesota state law, prosecutors may only enhance the penalties in a DWI case using prior convictions that fall within the lookback period.

Under the law, the lookback period is 10 years. That means that older offenses cannot be used to enhance the penalties of a DWI. There are some exceptions, however, as prior felony convictions can still enhance a DWI penalty no matter how long ago it was.

Expunging a DWI in Minneapolis and MN

The good news is, a DWI can now be expunged from your driving record. Previously, state lawmakers had limited the authority of judges to expunge criminal records, including assault, homicide, sexual assaults and DWIs. Elected officials had rationalized that all serious crimes that are considered a threat to public safety should not be eligible for expungement from anyone’s record.

According to the change in the law – it took effect Jan. 1, 2015 – a person convicted of a crime in Minnesota can seek to have it expunged from his or her record if it’s a petty misdemeanor, a misdemeanor or a gross misdemeanor. In most cases, a first-offense DWI in Minnesota is a misdemeanor. It’s upped to a gross misdemeanor if the person refuses to comply with a Breathalyzer test, if the person’s blood alcohol content is .16 percent or more or if a child under 16 is in the car at the time of the arrest.

A DWI can be expunged if the sentence is completed; in other words, the person convicted must have completed probation, jail time and paid any and all fines. Diversion also might be necessary before the crime can be removed from a person’s criminal record, and no other crimes can be committed, including subsequent drunk driving arrests, for at least two years.

Keep in mind, getting a DWI or other crime expunged from your record takes time and will cost you money. But it is possible. For more information, visit the Minnesota Courts – and give us a call.

How Long is a DUI on Your Insurance Record in MN?

Curious how long a DUI stays on your insurance record? The answer could be different from your criminal record. Insurance companies have their own rules on how a DWI conviction could impact your insurance rates. In states where a DWI rolls off a driving record after a handful of years, the insurance companies might keep track of it longer. The opposite could be true in states where a DWI remains on a criminal record forever. Insurance companies often take into account the length of time since the DWI conviction.

This is important, as insurance rates usually go up following a DWI arrest and conviction. For many people, these rates can go up dramatically. Over time, the insurer might slowly reduce these rates as you build up a clean driving record again.

Higher insurance costs are one of the unfortunate side effects of a DWI conviction. For that reason, avoiding a DWI conviction entirely should be a priority for you. While the thought of taking your case to trial might seem intimidating at first, it is important to understand that these charges are often defensible.

Consequences of a DWI in Minneapolis and Minnesota?

Regardless of whether it is expunged or not, a DWI conviction can negatively impact your life. It can raise your insurance rates for a few years – though luckily, that often gets better over time. Insurance companies tend to look back three to five years at most when determining rates.

If you’re ever arrested for another crime, authorities can use your DWI conviction against you.

A DWI stands for driving while intoxicated or driving while impaired. It’s also referred to as a DUI or driving under the influence. The more commonly-used term in Minnesota is DWI. Intoxication is usually defined as a prohibited alcohol level over the .08 legal limit in Minnesota).

It’s important that you seek the help and advice of an experienced Minneapolis DWI attorney as soon as possible. A DWI conviction on your record can negatively affect your life. It can harm your professional license, affect insurance rates, keep you from getting a job and cause you money and embarrassment.

While a DWI may or may not remain on a person’s record, it is a potentially life-altering and embarrassing experience for anyone who is arrested. Expungement is an option, but that can take time. It’s best to fight the charge as hard as possible to avoid a DWI conviction all together.

Statutory Penalties in Minnesota

For many people, the primary concern they face when charged with a DWI is the prospect of time behind bars. Incarceration is one of the statutory penalties set out in state law for a DWI conviction. In addition to incarceration, the law also sets out monetary fines for a DWI conviction as well.

These penalties are known as statutory penalties because they are written directly into the DWI statute. The maximum sentences increase for more serious charges. For example, a first-time offender might avoid additional jailtime entirely, while a person facing their fifth DWI conviction could be at risk of a lengthy prison sentence.

Collateral Consequences of DWI in MN

There are also consequences that do not stem directly from state statute. These are known as collateral consequences. These collateral consequences might be triggered by a DWI conviction on your criminal record, but they are not penalties found in any statue.

Some common examples of collateral consequences include the loss of your job, rejection of your rental application, or the revocation of a professional license. If you are convicted of felony DWI, you could even face the loss of your right to vote or own a firearm.

What Are Your Next Steps in a Minnesota DWI Case?

If you have been cited for a DWI in Minnesota, it is imperative that you speak with an experienced drunk driving attorney immediately. He or she can let you know your rights and help you determine if the police have a valid case.

Every case is unique. A criminal law expert with experience in DWI cases can help you fight the charges so they don’t affect your driving ability, your finances and your professional reputation. It’s crucial that you take steps to ensure your professional license remains valid and intact so you can move on with your life and put the DWI citation far behind you.

Don’t let one mistake ruin your life or your ability to get and keep a job. We know you’re a good person. We can help you move forward.  

Minnesota and Minneapolis DWI Criminal Defense Lawyer

Everyone deserves the right to the best defense available and this is why an experienced attorney serving the Minnesota, including the Minneapolis metro area, is absolutely vital.

DWI and DUI are serious offenses. In addition to the danger you pose to yourself and others, you also expose yourself to severe penalties, including a heavy fine, court costs, insurance surcharges, motor vehicle surcharges, loss of license and even a jail term. Since these penalties are significant and create a negative record that could affect your ability to get a job, obtain insurance and generally get on with your life, you should consult an experienced attorney who is dedicated to the field of DWI and DUI defense.

At Gerald Miller, we focus on DWI and DUI cases and ensure you receive the best legal representation from the moment you contact us. We will look at all aspects of your case in great detail. You need this level of legal counsel because driving under the influence cases can be the most difficult ones in which to obtain a successful outcome.

A DWI or DUI charge can happen to anybody. We believe everyone should be treated equally.

Call the attorneys at Gerald Miller today at 612-448-9231. Our lines are open 24 hours. We are here waiting to help you immediately. The attorneys at Gerald Millealso can help you with a non-DWI criminal charge and other areas in which skilled legal advice is needed.

The attorneys at Gerald Miller, P.A., will work hard to protect your legal rights. Call us today at (612) 440-3212 and schedule your free and confidential consultation. You can contact us seven days a week. We are on your side.

Originally published April 23, 2018 and updated October 20, 2021.

What are your thoughts on DWI records in Minnesota? Post your comments below.

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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