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What Is a 2nd Degree DWI in Minnesota?

A second-degree DWI in Minnesota is charged when:

  • You have two or more prior DWIs within 10 years.
  • Your BAC is .16+ or you refused testing, with one prior DWI within 10 years.

Penalties are harsh, including jail time, fines, and license revocation. A second degree DWI conviction can lead to severe consequences, so seek legal counsel if facing this charge.

Don’t face this alone – consult the experienced Minnesota DWI lawyers at Gerald Miller for a free consultation and strong defense.

Understanding DWI Degrees in Minnesota

In Minnesota, driving while impaired (DWI) offenses are categorized into four degrees, with the severity and potential consequences increasing with each degree. A 1st degree DWI is the most serious, while a 4th degree DWI is the least severe, often involving eligibility criteria, potential penalties such as jail term and fine, and other court-imposed penalties like probation, community service, and alcohol consumption restrictions. A 2nd degree DWI is a gross misdemeanor offense under state law, which means it carries heavier penalties than a regular misdemeanor.

2nd Degree DWI: A Closer Look

A 2nd degree DWI offense is the most serious misdemeanor DWI charge in Minnesota. It’s crucial to understand what factors elevate a DWI to this level. If convicted, you could face jail time, fines, license revocation, and other long-lasting consequences.

  • One prior DWI conviction: If you have one prior DWI conviction and are arrested again with a high BAC or refuse testing, it can elevate the charge to a 2nd degree DWI. This can result in mandatory minimum sentences, including specific durations of jail time and home monitoring. Additionally, there may be alternative court programs and other legal strategies to navigate the consequences.

Aggravating Factors

The degree of a DWI charge depends on the presence of “aggravating factors.” These are specific circumstances that make the offense more serious. A 2nd degree DWI typically involves two aggravating factors, which can include:

  • A prior DWI conviction within the past ten years.
  • A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .16 or higher.
  • Having a passenger under the age of 16 in the vehicle at the time of the offense.
  • Two prior DWI convictions within a specified time frame, which significantly elevates the charge to a 2nd degree DWI and can result in mandatory minimum sentences, increased potential jail time, house arrest, and other legal consequences.

It’s important to note that only prior DWI convictions within the past ten years are considered aggravating factors. This ten-year window is known as the “look-back” period. Additionally, prior DWI convictions from other states may also count if they meet Minnesota’s DWI criteria.

Diagram demonstrating how additional aggravating factors like a first degree or third DWI offense involving controlled substances can further increase the consequences of a second degree DWI conviction.

Proving a DWI in Minnesota

Regardless of the degree of DWI, the prosecution must prove the same basic elements:

  1. Operation of a motor vehicle: This includes driving, operating, or being in physical control of the vehicle (e.g., sitting in the driver’s seat with the engine running).
  2. Impairment: The driver’s ability to operate the motor vehicle was impaired by alcohol, a controlled substance, another intoxicating substance, or a combination of these. This can be proven through various means, such as:
    • Observation of the driver’s behavior.
    • Field sobriety tests.
    • Chemical test results (e.g., breath, blood, or urine test).

Consequences of a 2nd Degree DWI Conviction

A 2nd degree DWI conviction carries significant consequences, including:

  • Jail Time: Up to one year in county jail. There is a mandatory minimum sentence of 90 days, but some of this time may be served through electronic home monitoring.
  • Fines: A minimum fine of $900, with a maximum of $3,000.
  • License Suspension: Driver’s license suspension for a significant period.
  • Vehicle Forfeiture: In some cases, the court may order the forfeiture of the vehicle used in the offense.
  • Other Consequences: A 2nd degree DWI conviction can also result in increased insurance rates, difficulty finding employment or housing, and potential immigration issues.

Defending Against a 2nd Degree DWI Charge

It’s crucial to seek legal representation from experienced DWI lawyers if you’re facing a 2nd degree DWI charge. An attorney can help you understand the charges against you, challenge the evidence, and negotiate for reduced charges or penalties.

Some potential defenses in a 2nd degree DWI case may include:

  • Challenging the validity of the traffic stop or arrest.
  • Questioning the accuracy of the chemical test results.
  • Arguing that the alleged prior DWI conviction is outside the look-back period or doesn’t meet Minnesota’s criteria.

Comparison chart illustrating how two prior DWI convictions elevate a DWI charge to second degree, carrying harsher penalties than a third or fourth degree.

Additional Considerations for 2nd Degree DWI Charges

  • Mandatory Maximum Bail: If you’re arrested for a 2nd degree DWI, the court may impose a mandatory maximum bail or require continuous alcohol monitoring until your court appearance.
  • Chemical Dependency Assessment: The court may also order you to undergo a chemical dependency assessment and complete any recommended treatment.
  • License Plate Impoundment: If you have two or more prior DWI convictions or license revocations within ten years, or if your driver’s blood alcohol concentration was .16 or higher, your license plates may be impounded.
  • Gross Misdemeanor Penalties: A 2nd degree DWI is a gross misdemeanor, which means it carries a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine.
  • Negotiating a Plea: In some cases, it may be possible to negotiate a plea deal for a lesser charge, such as a third degree DWI. However, the prosecutor may be less willing to negotiate if there are more aggravating factors present.

Understanding Minnesota Law

Minnesota DWI law is complex and nuanced. It’s crucial to understand the specific statutes that define a 2nd degree DWI and the potential defenses available to you.

Under Minnesota law, a 2nd degree DWI is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by:

  • Mandatory minimum sentences of 90 days in jail (with potential for electronic home monitoring).
  • Mandatory minimum fines of $900, up to a maximum of $3,000.
  • License revocation for a specified period.

These mandatory penalties can be harsh, but an experienced Minnesota DWI lawyer can help you navigate the legal system and potentially reduce or avoid some of these consequences.

The Role of Prior DWI Convictions

As mentioned earlier, prior DWI convictions play a significant role in determining the degree of a DWI charge. In Minnesota, only prior convictions within the past ten years are considered. This means that if your last DWI conviction was more than ten years ago, it won’t be used as an aggravating factor in your current case.

However, even if your prior conviction is outside the look-back period, it can still be used to enhance the penalties you face if convicted of a new DWI offense. For instance, a second DWI conviction could result in a longer license suspension or increased fines.

Illustration depicting potential consequences of a second-degree DWI conviction, including jail time with electronic home monitoring and mandatory alcohol monitoring.


BAC Levels and Chemical Tests

Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is another critical factor in DWI charges. In Minnesota, the legal limit for driving is 0.08%. However, if you have a prior DWI conviction, the legal limit is reduced to 0.04%.

If your BAC is 0.16% or higher, or if you refuse to submit to a chemical test, this can be used as an aggravating factor to elevate your charge to a 2nd degree DWI. It’s important to understand that refusing a chemical test can have serious consequences, including automatic license revocation and the potential for enhanced criminal penalties.

Defending Against 2nd Degree DWI Charges

If you’re facing a 2nd degree DWI charge, it’s crucial to consult with an experienced DWI lawyer who can assess your case and develop a strong defense strategy.

Your attorney may challenge the evidence against you, such as the validity of the traffic stop, the accuracy of the chemical test, or the admissibility of your prior DWI conviction. They may also explore alternative sentencing options, such as intensive probation or participation in a chemical dependency assessment program.

The Importance of Legal Representation

A 2nd degree DWI is a serious offense with long-lasting consequences. Don’t underestimate the importance of having a skilled defense attorney on your side. They can help you understand your rights, protect your interests, and fight for the best possible outcome in your case.

The lawyers at Gerald Miller are dedicated to providing comprehensive and aggressive DWI defense representation. They understand the complexities of Minnesota DWI law and have a proven track record of success in helping clients facing DWI charges. Contact them today for a free consultation and learn how they can help you fight your 2nd degree DWI charge.

Graph showing relationship between prior DWI offenses and increased penalties for a second degree DWI in Minnesota.

Understanding the Stakes

A 2nd degree DWI conviction can have a devastating impact on your life. You could lose your driving privileges, face significant fines and jail time, and experience difficulty finding employment or housing.

However, with the help of an experienced Minnesota DWI lawyer, you can fight back against these charges and protect your future. By understanding your legal options and developing a strong defense strategy, you may be able to avoid a 2nd degree DWI conviction altogether or minimize the consequences.

Seek Legal Help Today

If you’re facing a 2nd degree DWI charge in Minnesota, it’s essential to contact a qualified Minnesota DWI lawyer as soon as possible. The attorneys at Gerald Miller have extensive experience defending clients against DWI charges and can help you navigate the complexities of the legal system to protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome. Don’t hesitate to schedule a free consultation today.

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.

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