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The DWI Court Process in Minneapolis, MN

If you have been arrested under suspicion of driving while impaired (DWI) it is not unusual to wonder about the court process you are likely to face. This is especially true for first-time offenders, which make up the majority of people charged with DWI.

Understanding the process could help you aid in your defense. It could also reduce the stress that can come with a criminal prosecution. More than anything, staying informed of the process could provide you with peace of mind knowing that you are doing everything you can to protect your rights and your freedom.

Most prosecutions for DWI in Minneapolis occur in the Hennepin County District Court. DWI attorney Gerald Miller has had years of success fighting and winning DWI trials in Minneapolis courts, and his experience could make the difference in your case. Reach out right away to learn more.


Before the Court Process: Your Arrest

Before you can understand the court process, it is important to a have a thorough understanding of what occurs beforehand. Your arrest and processing are all parts of the legal system, and these events play a part in the court process.

Most arrests for DWI begin with a traffic stop. While not always the case, most arrests for DWI in Minneapolis are performed by the Minneapolis Police Department. If the officer that pulls you over believes there is enough evidence to arrest you for DWI, they will take you into custody, fingerprint you, and have typically have you submit to a breathalyzer test to determine your blood alcohol concentration (BAC).


Bail for DWI in Minneapolis

If you have been arrested in Minneapolis, you have a right to bail. The cash bail system allows you or a loved one to post cash in exchange for your release. If you meet certain conditions, most of that money is returned to you after your case is resolved.

Bail must be set in every case, but it does not work the same for every type of DWI charge. Anyone facing a 4th degree DWI—which is reserved for those without any aggravating factors or prior convictions—is likely to be released on their own recognizance. That means the police will release them after their arrest on the promise that they attend court for their arraignment.

This option is not available for other DWI charges. For more serious offenses, the will require a person to pay the maximum amount of bail in order to be released. For anyone charged with felony DWI, bail is only an option at arraignment. That means someone charged with felony DWI must remain in jail until they go before a judge. Anyone arrested over the weekend could wait days for their arraignment.



The first formal court proceeding in a DWI case is arraignment. What happens at the arraignment will depend on a variety of factors. One of those factors is whether or not you have hired a DWI attorney to represent you.

Most people facing arrest for DWI are charged with a fourth-degree offense. That means they typically have already been released from jail prior to their arraignment. These individuals are still required to attend the arraignment, where they will enter a plea of either guilty or not guilty. The exception is when you hire an attorney. Your legal counsel could enter appear on your behalf or have your arraignment waived. In fact, your attorney will appear for you so that you don’t have to at most of the hearings in your case.

Arraignment is different for anyone that remains in jail following their arrest for DWI. This most commonly occurs for anyone arrested for felony DWI. In this case, the judge will hear the plea from the defendant. Afterward, they will set bail. For anyone charged with a felony, this is often their opportunity to get out of jail following their arrest.

At the end of the arraignment, the court will set a next court date. There will always be at least one court date scheduled for any criminal case. This is done to prevent cases from slipping through the cracks.


Plea Hearings

A lot can happen following an arraignment. Often, the prosecution will review the facts of the case and make a plea bargain offer. While defeating these charges is often possible, many DWI cases ultimately end with a plea agreement.

Most of the time, your attorney will appear on your behalf during any status hearings. One of the situations where you must appear is when you intend to plead guilty. You must be present in court where the judge will ask you a series of questions about your decision to waive a trial and accept a guilty plea.

These hearings can occur at any point prior to trial. Some cases reach a plea agreement early on in the process. Others could drag out for months before settling shortly before trial. The important thing is that your DWI attorney helps you secure a fair offer.


Pre-Trial Conference

If you have not reached a plea agreement or have decided to take your case to trial, the next step is a pre-trial conference. At these hearings, the court will resolve all of the lingering issues that must be resolved before the trial can commence. In many cases, this hearing is where the sides will announce that a plea agreement has been reached.

When a plea bargain is not in the cards, there are other important matters for a DWI attorney to raise. First and foremost, this hearing is a chance for either side to bring new information to light. This could include the unavailability of a witness or additional evidence related to the offense.

One of the most important aspects of the pre-trial conference involves motions. These filings by either party could shape the evidence the court sees at trial. Alternatively, these motions could bring an end to the case entirely.

The pre-trial conference is often where motions to suppress are heard. If your attorney has identified evidence that your rights were violated during your arrest, they could pursue a motion to exclude that evidence from trial. These motions are often made following the determination the traffic stop was unlawful or the breath test results were compromised. In some cases, the court might even grant a motion to dismiss the case.



The final step in the DWI court process is a trial. These trials are often held in front of juries. While a jury of six people could hear a misdemeanor DWI, there are typically 12 members in a felony jury. In some cases, a judge might hear the case instead of the jury.

The trial is an opportunity for both sides to be heard. The prosecution will always go first. Their case typically revolves around the testimony of the arresting officer. If you submitted to a chemical test, the result of these tests will typically play an important part in the state’s case.

You will also have a chance to put on evidence with the help of your DWI attorney. This could involve relying on expert witness testimony to establish that you were not impaired. Witness testimony could be used to establish that you were not driving or that you were not under the influence of a controlled substance. Following the close of evidence, both sides will get the chance to make a closing statement that wraps up their argument for or against conviction.

At the end of the trial, the jury will deliberate. When they reach a final decision, they will inform the judge. If you are acquitted, your case is over and you are free to go. If you are convicted, it is up to the judge to determine your sentence.


Discuss the DWI Process with Gerald Miller

The DWI court process can be confusing, especially if you have never been charged with a crime before. The good news is that you do not have to navigate this process on your own. The DWI defense attorneys of Gerald Miller are ready to help you develop a strong defense strategy. Attorneys from our firm could work with you to ensure that your rights are protected. Contact us for a free consultation today.


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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