When it comes to criminal charges for impaired driving, the use of acronyms is frequent. Understanding these acronyms is useful if you are currently facing charges for impaired driving. In Minneapolis, DWI stands for “driving while impaired.” While other states refer to their charges as “driving while intoxicated,” there is no functional difference between these two terms.
Understanding the nature of the charges against you is only the first step in building a strong defense. Ultimately, the criminal defense lawyer you choose will have the largest impact on the outcome of your case. You deserve a vigorous defense, and the Minneapolis DWI attorneys at Gerald Miller are ready to build that defense with you. Call right away to discuss your options during an initial consultation.
The Offense of DWI in Minneapolis
As knowledgeable Minneapolis DWI attorneys, we can tell you that the formal name for the offense – driving while impaired – is found at Minneapolis Statutes Section 169A.20. Unfortunately, there is no simple definition for the term impairment under state law. According to the statute, the offense of DWI involves a person driving, operating, or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle under one of the seven following conditions:
- The person is under the influence of alcohol
- The person is under the influence of a controlled substance
- The person is under the influence of an intoxicating substance and the person knows or has reason to know that the substance has the capacity to cause impairment
- The person is under the influence of a combination of any two or more of the elements named in clauses (1) to (3)
- The person’s alcohol concentration at the time, or as measured within two hours of the time, of driving, operating, or being in physical control of the motor vehicle is 0.08 or more
- The vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle and the person’s alcohol concentration at the time, or as measured within two hours of the time, of driving, operating, or being in physical control of the commercial motor vehicle is 0.04 or more
- The person’s body contains any amount of a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or II, or its metabolite, other than marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinol
Ultimately, the offense boils down to intoxication due to drugs or alcohol while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. A DWI conviction carries the potential for jail time, fines, and suspension of your driving privileges. This is true even in the case of first-time offenders. Given what is at stake, it is vital that you seek qualified legal counsel from a skilled Minneapolis DWI attorney immediately after a DWI arrest.
DWI in Minneapolis vs. DUI
There is often confusion regarding the terms DWI and DUI, especially from one jurisdiction to the next. Some states like Arkansas treat DWI and DUI as individual criminal offenses. Typically, a DWI is treated like any other drunken driving offense. DUI charges on the other hand are used for situations where a person under the legal drinking age is driving with alcohol in their system, but not enough to be considered intoxicated. These offenses usually have lighter penalties compared to a traditional DWI conviction.
Other states simply use the terms DUI and DWI interchangeably. Minneapolis is one of those states. While some Minneapolis DWI attorneys use these terms to draw a distinction between cases centered on blood alcohol concentration results versus intoxication in a broader sense, this distinction does not formally exist under the law.
Other Important Legal Terms in a DWI Case
There are many important terms and acronyms that could help you understand the nature of the criminal charges you are facing. These terms are often found in police reports and charging documents, making it valuable to understand their meaning. As seasoned Minneapolis DWI attorneys, we are well-versed with them.
Below are some of the terms most commonly used in Minneapolis DWI cases.
- BAC: Blood alcohol concentration is the method law enforcement uses to measure the amount of alcohol in a driver’s bloodstream. Typically, the police will collect a sample of a suspect’s blood, breath, or urine to determine the BAC at the time of the arrest. In Minneapolis, a BAC of .08 or above is a violation of DWI laws.
- BCA: Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is the state-level agency empowered to conduct lab tests related to DWI cases. The BCA analyzes blood and urine samples to determine their BAC. The bureau also oversees testing protocol for all breathalyzer machines within the state.
- DPS: The Department of Public Safety is the agency that oversees the Division of Driver and Vehicle Services. This agency is in charge of driver licensing and suspensions.
- PBT: A portable breath test is the handheld breath testing device used by police at the scene of a traffic stop. This test is an investigative tool, but the results are generally not admissible at trial. A failure can be used as evidence of probable cause to make an arrest for DWI, however.
- REAM: Remote electronic alcohol monitoring is the system used to test those convicted of a crime for alcohol in their system. This system is also used for defendants out of jail on pretrial release.
- SFST: The standardized field sobriety test, is the series of three physical exercises officers typically request suspected drunken drivers to complete at the scene of a traffic stop. The tests include the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the one-legged stand test, and the walk and turn test. Unlike a breath test, there are no additional consequences for a driver to refuse to submit to field sobriety tests.
Consequences of a DWI Conviction in Minneapolis
No matter what DWI stands for, the consequences of a DWI conviction could upend your life severely. In some cases, these consequences could haunt you forever.
The good news about these consequences is that they will only become a reality if you are convicted. Many people facing DWI offenses avoid a conviction by having their case dismissed or even prevailing at trial. The attorneys of Gerald Miller have a long track record of success when it comes to fighting these charges. Reach out right away to learn how we could help you secure a positive outcome in your Minnesota DWI case.
For most people, the risk of incarceration is their primary concern. Every DWI offense under state law brings the potential for time behind bars. With some of these offenses, there is a minimum mandatory sentence. With others, it could be possible to avoid jail time entirely.
The length of these sentences will depend in part on the nature of the offense. First-, second-, and third-time offenders typically face a maximum sentence of no more than one year in county jail. These charges are considered misdemeanors or gross misdemeanors. Felony offenses carry much steeper penalties. At most, these convictions could result in up to seven years in state prison.
Monetary fines are another part of DWI convictions. These fines are payable to the state and often run in the thousands of dollars. Even the lowest-level DWI offense brings a fine of up to $1,000. For felony convictions, a DWI could lead to a fine of up to $14,000.
The suspension of driving privileges is another common consequence of any DWI conviction. The length of time you might lose your driving privileges depends on how many prior convictions you have. First-time offenders generally will only lose their license for 90 days, while a conviction for a gross misdemeanor could lead to a year without driving privileges. In felony cases, you could lose your license for years and be required to continually test for drugs or alcohol to secure a license in the future. In extreme cases, the state could even pursue vehicle forfeiture against you.
There are also collateral consequences that can come with a DWI conviction. Collateral consequences are any hardship you might face from a conviction that does not stem directly from the statute. There are more collateral consequences for felonies than misdemeanors. For example, a felony conviction could cost you your right to vote or own a firearm.
There are often employment-based consequences related to DWI convictions. If you have a DWI on your criminal record, you could lose your job or be denied a promotion. You might even face the loss of a professional license. Other collateral consequences could include child custody or immigration issues.
Fighting Back against Allegations of DWI in Minneapolis
There are ways to fight back against a DWI in Minnesota. In general, there are two defense strategies that are commonly used in these cases. These include disputing the legality of the traffic stop and challenging the accuracy of the chemical test.
The police are not entitled to pull you over any time they want. If they lack reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation or other crime, they are barred from pulling you over. If they pull you over illegally, our team could have any evidence collected at the scene thrown out at your trial. This could include the results of a breath test, a video of your field sobriety tests, or even an admission of drinking.
There are also strict regulations related to the testing of your blood, breath, or urine for the presence of alcohol. If the police collect a chemical sample from you, there are guidelines on how it must be handled. There are specific certifications for taking blood or breath samples, just like there are necessary qualifications for someone to test these samples for the presence of alcohol. If the state fails to adhere to these requirements, our firm could move to have the evidence excluded from your DWI trial.
Speak with a Minneapolis DWI Defense Attorney Right Away
Understanding these terms is helpful, but there is only so much good personal research can do for your DWI defense. Ultimately, your Minneapolis DWI attorney will be able to answer the big questions you have about your case. What are your chances of acquittal? Is this plea bargain fair? Did the police violate my rights? These are the questions only your attorney can answer.
To get the answers you deserve, call the attorneys at Gerald Miller right away. Our team of dedicated Minneapolis DWI defense lawyers will work tirelessly to help you get the best possible outcome in your case on (612) 405-5522.
This article was originally published on May 24, 2021 and update on June 28, 2021