There are four different levels—formally known as degrees—of driving while impaired offenses under Minnesota law. While the elements of establishing guilt for each of these levels is the same, the potential penalties that come with these offenses differ substantially. If you’re wondering what are the different levels of DWI, the reality is that any degree of DWI can have steep consequences. Even first-time offenders could face lifelong consequences if they are ultimately convicted.
Given what is at stake, never take a DWI offense lightly. With the right defense, you might be able to beat the charges against you and avoid a DWI conviction entirely. Let the Minneapolis DWI defense lawyers of Gerald Miller review your case and advise you of your defense options.
The Different Levels of DWI in Minnesota
Fourth-Degree DWI in MN
Of the four degrees of DWI, fourth-degree DWI in Minnesota is the lowest-tier offense. This level of DWI is charged for first-time offenders or those individuals with prior DWI convictions in the past 10 years. The law treats a fourth-degree DWI as a misdemeanor, which carries the lowest penalty range of any criminal offense in the state.
Not all first-time offenders qualify for a fourth-degree DWI, however, as the state recognizes something known as aggravating factors. These aggravating factors include prior DWI convictions. Other aggravating factors include the refusal to provide a chemical test sample, the presence of a passenger under the age of 16 at the time of the arrest, or a blood alcohol concentration on 0.16 or more. The more aggravating factors a person has, the higher degree of offense they will face. Fourth-degree DWI carries up to 90 days in jail as well as a maximum fine of $1,000.
Third-Degree DWI in Minneapolis and MN
A third-degree DWI in MN is one step up from the lowest possible DWI offense under state law. A third degree DWI is the appropriate charge for a person with one prior DWI conviction in the previous 10 years. Alternatively, the state can bring third-degree DWI charges against a first-time offender with one aggravating factor. If convicted, a third-degree DWI could lead to a maximum jail term of one year as well as a fine of no more than $3,000.
Minneapolis MN Second-Degree DWI
A second-degree Minnesota DWI charge is considered a gross misdemeanor under the law. This means a conviction could lead to a maximum of one year in a jail and a fine of $3,000. Additionally, there are mandatory minimums for a third-degree DWI that are not present in lower-level offenses.
A second-degree DWI is the appropriate charge when there are two aggravating factors. These factors could include two prior convictions, or a combination of other factors like a high BAC score.
Minneapolis MN First-Degree DWI
A first-degree DWI in MN is the only felony DWI charge under Minnesota law. If you’re asking what are the different levels of DWI in Minnesota, this is the most serious. It carries a maximum prison term seven times longer than the longest sentence available for a second-degree DWI. A conviction can result in up to seven years in prison as well as steep fines and other consequences.
Determining whether or not a charge should be a first-degree DWI follows a very different approach compared to all other DWI offenses. Unlike the other three degrees, aggravating factors play no part in determining if a DWI is a felony or misdemeanor. Instead, the prosecution will only look at the number of qualifying prior convictions a person has.
Anyone with three or more qualifying prior DWI convictions will face first-degree DWI charges. A conviction qualifies if it occurred in the 10 years prior to the current arrest. Alternatively, anyone that has been convicted of felony DWI before will also face first-degree DWI charges if they are arrested for DWI again. This means ensure a person previously convicted of a felony DWI does not benefit by facing misdemeanor charges for another arrest in the future.
A Minneapolis DWI Defense Lawyer at Gerald Miller Can Help You
While the degree of DWI offense you face matters, it will only play a part in your case if you are convicted. If you can beat the charges against you, the specific degree of DWI charge will not matter.
Are you wondering, What are the different levels of DWI in Minnesota? If you’re facing DWI charges, let the attorneys of Gerald Miller help you build a winning defense strategy from the ground up. To learn more about how our approach to DWI defense might work for you, call now for a free consultation.