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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

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:

  1. The person is under the influence of alcohol
  2. The person is under the influence of a controlled substance
  3. 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
  4. The person is under the influence of a combination of any two or more of the elements named in clauses (1) to (3)
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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.


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. 

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. 

Cody Wright

Cody Wright is a dedicated DWI/DUI lawyer at Gerald Miller P.A. in Minnesota. He ensures your voice is heard in a system that often discourages the accused from speaking up. He has received his law degree from Mitchell College of Law.


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