The state of Minnesota has strict liquor laws that contain a wide range of offenses. If you find yourself facing a charge that alleges you violated a liquor law, such as open container or driving while intoxicated (DWI), reach out to an experienced Minnesota criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Open Container Laws
Open container laws often concern having an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of your vehicle when you’re on a public road. This law applies whether you are drinking from the open container or not and whether you are under the influence of alcohol or not.
If you have an open bottle of wine to take home with you after having dinner at a friend’s house, it can be tricky to do so within the limits of the state’s liquor laws, so it’s important to understand the basic rules. If you put the half-empty bottle of wine in your trunk, you are fine. Your glove box, however, is considered part of the passenger area. A truck’s bed and the storage area in a hatchback are all deemed appropriate for transporting an open container. As long as the open container in your vehicle isn’t somewhere that you or a passenger can easily reach it, you’re likely good to go. Finally, having an open container in your car is a misdemeanor regardless of whether you are in the car or not, which is something to think about if you are in the practice of loaning your car to others.
An open container violation is a misdemeanor offense that can carry fines of up to $1,000, jail time of up to 90 days, and a driver’s license suspension.
Driving While Intoxicated
DWI charges in Minnesota are predicated on a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. You can face such charges with a lower BAC, however, if the alcohol you consumed is deemed to have negatively affected your ability to drive safely. Such determinations are typically made via field tests in which the arresting officer gauge your reaction time and other factors that can be indicative of intoxication.
The penalties associated with a DWI conviction range considerably, but even the lightest sentence can have seriously negative consequences. These penalties are divided into two categories, administrative and criminal. Administrative penalties can include:
• Revocation of your driver’s license
• Impoundment of your plates
• Vehicle forfeiture
These administrative penalties are intended to hit alleged offenders with speedy consequences, and, in some situations, they can be imposed immediately upon arrest for DWI.
When it comes to the criminal penalties you could face for a DWI conviction, the following apply:
• Misdemeanor – You could face up to 90 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. A first DWI offense is generally a misdemeanor unless certain aggravating factors are present.
• Third-degree gross misdemeanor – You could face up to 1 year in jail and up to $3,000 in fines. One’s first offense is typically considered a misdemeanor. However, If your blood alcohol is at or above 0.16 percent, if there is a child in the car at the time of arrest, or if you refuse to take a chemical test, it elevates the charge to a third-degree gross misdemeanor. If it is your second offense within a 10 year period it is also automatically a gross misdemeanor.
• Second-degree gross misdemeanor – You could face up to 1 year in jail and up to $3,000 in fines. Further, the police and the prosecution may seize your vehicle. A second-degree gross misdemeanor charge applies if you’ve had two or more DWI offenses in the 10 years prior or if you’ve had 1 offense in the 10 years prior (or another aggravating factor pertains) and your blood alcohol is .16 percent or higher, there is a child in the car, or you refuse to be tested at the time. Finally, if it is your first DWI and two aggravating factors are present, you can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor.
• Felony – You can face up to 7 years in prison and up to $14,000 in fines. If you have been convicted of 3 DWI offenses in the 10 years prior, you could face a felony charge. You can also face a felony charge if, at any time in the past, you have been convicted of a felony DWI or of criminal vehicular operation or criminal vehicular homicide.
These penalties don’t even take into account the legal fees you’ll face and other hardships that accompany a DWI conviction.
An Experienced Minnesota Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
The dedicated criminal defense attorneys at Gerald Miller in Minneapolis understand exactly how disruptive a conviction for a liquor law violation can be, and we’re committed to vigorously defending your rights in pursuit of your case’s best possible resolution. To learn more, please don’t hesitate to contact or call us at 612.440.3212 today.