Available 24/7/365 Ashburn

What Is a 2nd Degree DWI in Minnesota?

In Minnesota, the crime of driving while impaired (DWI) is broken down into four different offenses, known as degrees. The severity of each offense depends on the degree of DWI charge you are convicted of. A 1st degree DWI carries the steepest penalties, while a 4th degree DWI carries the lightest. If you’re asking what is 2nd degree DWI in Minnesota, it is usually a misdemeanor unless there are “aggravating factors”.

2nd degree DWI offense is the most serious misdemeanor drunken driving offense under state law. If convicted, you could spend time behind bars and face other consequences that can last a lifetime. The good news is that an acquittal or dismissal could avoid any of these consequences. Contact the attorneys at Gerald Miller to learn more about your defense options.

Minnesota DWI Law

In Minnesota, the elements for a DWI charge are the same no matter what degree of DWI a person is charged with. The state must not only prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you drover while impaired, but they must also demonstrate that a higher level of DWI charge is required under the law.

To prove a case of DWI, the prosecutor must establish that you were operating a motor vehicle while impaired by an intoxicating substance like alcohol or drugs. Operating a motor covers more than driving, however. The state needs to show that you were either operating, driving, or merely in physical control of the vehicle. Physical control is a subjective standard, but it covers situations where you have the means to drive at a moment’s notice. Sitting in the driver’s seat of a vehicle with the engine running is often considered physical control of a vehicle.

Next, the state must prove that you are impaired. According to state law, there are seven different circumstances that are examples of impairment. The prosecutor needs to only establish one of these options to gain a conviction. The state can prove impairment by showing:

  • The driver was under the influence of alcohol
  • The driver was under the influence of a controlled substance
  • The driver was under the influence of some type of intoxicating substance they should have known could cause impairment
  • The driver was under the influence of a combination of alcohol, drugs, or some other impairing substance
  • The driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was .08 or higher
  • The driver held a commercial license and had a BAC of .04 or higher, or
  • The driver tests positive for any schedule I or II controlled substance or metabolite

How Aggravating Factors Work in Minnesota

If you’re asking what is 2nd degree DWI in Minnesota, you should factor in possible aggravating factors. In DWI cases, the presence or absence of “aggravating factors” will determine the appropriate degree of charge a person faces. A person with no aggravating factors will be charged with 4th degree DWI—the lowest level of offense. The more aggravating factors a person has, the higher the level of the DWI charge they can face. A 2nd degree DWI is the appropriate charge for anyone with two aggravating factors.

There are three types of aggravating factors. They include:

  • A previous DWI conviction in the past 10 years,
  • Recording a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .16 or more, or
  • Having a passenger under the age of 16 in the vehicle during the DWI offense

It is worth noting that not every previous DWI conviction will qualify as an aggravating factor. Only those convictions that occurred in the ten years prior to the arrest in question count. This ten year window is known as a “look back” period.

DWI convictions from other states can also count as aggravating factors. Since every state approaches these offenses differently, any offense that is similar to a Minnesota DWI charge could be counted as an aggravating factor if it falls within the look back period.

In fact, the prosecutor could use a prior conviction from another state, even if it is not specifically labeled as DWI under that state’s laws. For example, some jurisdictions will allow a first-time DWI offender to plead their DWI offense down to a lesser charge. When this happens, Minnesota prosecutors may still use that conviction as an aggravating factor. What matters is whether or not the conviction could have been charged as a DWI had it occurred in Minnesota. If a prior conviction qualified as a DWI under Minnesota law, it may be used as an aggravating factor.

Consequences of a Second-Degree DWI

When it comes to determining guilt or innocence, a second-degree DWI is treated no differently than any other DWI case. Only during the penalty phase does it make a difference whether you have aggravating factors or not.

Your prior convictions and other aggravating factors will have a tremendous impact on your case during the sentencing phase. If found guilty, these factors could be the difference between avoiding jail time and spending years behind bars. Some of the common consequences of a second-degree DWI include:

Jail Time

Jail time is the primary concern of most people facing DWI charges. A second-degree DWI conviction could bring as much as one year in county jail. However, what really stands out with a second-degree DWI is the steep minimum sentence. The court is required to sentence you to at least 90 days behind bars for a second-degree offense. The good news is that some of that time could be spent in home confinement.


There are also financial penalties associated with a criminal conviction for DWI. These penalties are known as fines. A fine is a set dollar amount that must be paid to the courts following a conviction. A second-degree DWI conviction carries a minimum fine of at least $900. The maximum fine tops out at $3,000.

License Suspension

A second-degree DWI can also limit your ability to operate a motor vehicle legally. Not only could the state suspend your driving privileges following a DWI, they could even seize your vehicle. For many people, it can take years of driving with an ignition interlock device to ever earn back full rights to drive under state law.

Collateral Consequences

Not all consequences that come with a Minnesota DWI conviction are written into the statute. There are also collateral consequences that can occur as the result of conviction that are not tied to the criminal code in any way. Some of these consequences stem from other statutes while others are simply social penalties that occur naturally upon a conviction. Some collateral consequences include:

  • Lost Job Opportunities. An employer has no obligation to ignore your criminal record. Not only could you lose a job you currently have due to a DWI conviction, but you could also miss out on future employment opportunities as well. A criminal record check is commonplace during the hiring process, and a DWI on your record could cost you a job.
  • Lost Housing Opportunities. Landlords rely on criminal background checks just like potential employers. Just like employers, your landlord has the right to discriminate against you based on your criminal record. If you have a DWI in your past, there is nothing stopping a prospective landlord from throwing away your application.
  • Custody Issues. If you are involved in a custody dispute, a DWI conviction could work against you. This is certainly the case when a minor child was with you in the car at the time of the DWI arrest.
  • Professional License Loss. Professions that require a license, like nurses and lawyers, can regulate these licenses over criminal convictions. If you have been convicted of a DWI, the licensing body could suspend or even revoke your license.
  • Immigration Issues. Certain criminal offenses could also complicate immigration proceedings.

Speak with Gerald Miller About Your DWI Case in Minneapolis

A second degree DWI conviction could impact your life in many ways. It could cost you your freedom and result in your incarceration. It could lead to serious financial consequences including fines and lost employment opportunities. What is important to remember is that these consequences will only become a reality if you are convicted by the state.

Fighting back against a 2nd degree DWI charge is about more than arguing your innocence. In many cases, the strongest defense strategy could result in the prosecution downgrading a 2nd degree DWI charge to a lesser offense. Establishing a prior conviction was outside of the look back period could have a substantial impact on potential criminal consequences. Let the attorneys of Gerald Miller assist you in a thorough review of your defense options. If you are ready to get started, call right away for your free consultation.


This article was originally published on January 18, 2021 and updated on June 25 and July 28, 2021.

About the author

Tyler Dahlen

Tyler weaves legal expertise with unwavering compassion in his criminal defense practice. Each case becomes a personal crusade, uncovering the human story beneath the headlines and crafting meticulous strategies that challenge the system and fight for a second chance. His relentless pursuit of justice in even the most complex DWI cases has earned him a reputation as a champion for the underdog, a voice for the unheard, and a beacon of hope in the face of adversity.

DUI/DWI Articles

You May Also Be Interested In

How To Get a DWI Dismissed in Minnesota in 2024


Three Scenarios Where You Might Be Facing a Wrongful DWI Charge


A Woodbury DWI Attorney Explains the Consequences when Children are Involved


Gerald Miller P.A. – 24/7 Defense – Minneapolis DUI Attorney


Minneapolis DWI Lawyer – Secure Your Best Defense


Minneapolis DWI Defense: What You Need to Know About Field Sobriety Tests



Get A Free Consultation

Acting quickly will minimize the impact. Don’t wait act now!

    Table of Contents