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What Is the Penalty for DWI in Minneapolis, MN?

The potential penalties for a driving while impaired (DWI) conviction in Minnesota can vary. So, what is the penalty for DWI in Minneapolis and Minnesota? Under the law, a DWI conviction could qualify as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances, and therefore carry different penalties.

In Minnesota, prosecutors apply something known as aggravating factors to DWI in each case. The more aggravating factors are present, the higher degree of DWI penalties a defendant may face. The most common aggravating factor is a prior DWI conviction in the previous 10 years.

If you have been arrested for DWI in Minnesota, the attorneys at Gerald Miller can review your case and advise you on the potential penalties you might face. During your initial consultation, we can also advise you on your chances of beating the DWI charges against you. Call right away to learn more.

First Offense DWI

A first-offense DWI typically carries the lightest penalties upon conviction. The penalties for a first-time offender will depend in part on their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of their arrest. A defendant with a BAC below 0.16 will face up to 90 days in jail and as much as a $1,000 fine. These cases typically result in no additional jail time. A first-time offender with a BAC of 0.16 or more could face up to one year in jail and a fine of no more than $3,000. This higher penalty also applies to motorists that refuse to submit to a chemical test.

Second Offense DWI

For a second offense, drivers with a BAC under 0.16 could face up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. In cases where the defendant either refused to submit to a chemical test or had a BAC of 0.16 or above, they could face up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $3,000. This jail time could result in electronic home monitoring, incarceration in the county jail, or time in a workhouse.

Third Offense DWI

Like a first and second offense, third-offense DWI charges are typically treated as misdemeanors. For that reason, the maximum penalties for a third offense DWI are similar. For a third offense, a conviction carries up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $3,000. There is no differentiation in penalties based on the driver’s BAC levels.

Fourth and Subsequent DWI

Fourth and subsequent DWI convictions are treated as felonies under Minnesota law. The difference between misdemeanor and felony penalties are substantial. In this case, a felony DWI conviction could result in up to 7 years in prison and a fine of no more than $4,000. This sentencing range is in effect no matter the driver’s BAC level or if they refused to submit to a chemical test.

Collateral Consequences

There are other consequences that can come with a DWI other than jail time and fines. The most prominent example involves administrative penalties against your driver’s license. Every DWI conviction will lead to some form of suspension of your driving privileges. For a first-time offender, the suspension could last 90 days.

Third or subsequent offenses could see your license covered as “inimical to public safety.” You could also face years of mandatory ignition interlock device use when you are eligible to drive again. In some cases, the state may even move to seize your vehicle through a civil lawsuit.

There are other collateral consequences that can follow every DWI conviction. Because your criminal record can be accessed by the public, potential employers and landlords could hold a DWI against you. Felony DWI convictions carry their own collateral consequences as well. These include the potential loss of your right to vote or own firearms.

Fighting Back Against a DWI Charge

Ultimately, you will only face the consequences of a DWI upon conviction. If your case is dismissed or you win at trial, you will avoid any jail, fines, or other consequences. In fact, the state can never pursue you for this DWI ever again.

Securing a favorable outcome in your DWI case is never easy. The state aggressively pursues these cases and often pushes for steep penalties—especially in cases involving multiple offenses.

The State’s Burden

It is not your job to prove your innocence following an arrest for DWI. Instead, the state must demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that you drove while impaired prior to your arrest. If the state cannot meet this burden, you are entitled to an acquittal.

The specific factors the state must prove in a DWI are set out in Minnesota Statute Section 169A.20. These elements do not change no matter what degree of DWI you are charged with. According to the statute, the state must prove that you drove, operated, or were in physical control of a motor vehicle while impaired.

It is not hard to understand what constitutes driving or operating a motor vehicle on a public roadway. However, the statute also makes clear that you could be guilty of DWI in some cases when you were not driving your vehicle. What constitutes physical control of a vehicle is often hotly disputed during DWI cases. Ultimately, you could face a potential DWI conviction if you were impaired while in a position where you could easily operate a motor vehicle. This typically applies to people that are in a parked vehicle with access to the keys.

The state must also demonstrate that you were impaired. The statute provides seven ways for the state to demonstrate impairment, and the prosecutor can choose which option works best in their case. These seven ways include:

  • 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; or
  • the person’s body contains any amount of a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or II, or its metabolite, other than marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols.

The attorneys of Gerald Miller have experience defending each type of DWI allegation the state might bring against you. We understand the important differences between the state building their case on your BAC results compared to establishing that you were impaired through other evidence. Let our team assist you in determining the right defense strategy for your case.

Your Defense Strategy

The approach that you and your attorney take during the course of your DWI prosecution will play a major role in the outcome of your case. You may have a number of defense options available to you depending on the circumstances of your arrest.

There are a few ways your attorney could help you obtain a fair outcome in your DWI case. The best outcome possible is to see the charges against you dismissed entirely. A dismissal might be the best outcome available, but the state is unlikely to agree to drop your charges without a strong defense strategy on your side.

There are other options outside of securing a dismissal. Your attorney could help you negotiate a reasonable plea bargain or even have the charges against you reduced to a lesser offense. When negotiations fail, your best option for pushing back against a DWI charge involve taking your case to trial.

Speak with an Attorney about DWI Penalties in Minnesota

Any DWI conviction can have a harmful impact on your personal and professional life. Jail time and fines are one thing, but collateral consequences that can follow you for the rest of your life is another.

The attorneys of Gerald Miller could help you avoid these consequences. DWI cases are often defensible, and we can advise you on your best chance for an acquittal. If you are ready to discuss your legal options, contact Gerald Miller right away to schedule your free consultation.


About the author

William Bailey

Bill brings his strategic mind and calm demeanor to criminal defense. From DWIs to murder charges, he’s tackled it all across Minnesota, leaving a trail of satisfied clients and courtroom victories. He won’t sugarcoat the process, but with his empathy and expertise, he’ll guide you through it, ensuring you understand every step and feel supported every way. When he’s not in the courtroom, catch him at the lake or cheering on his favorite teams.

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