The penalties for a conviction for driving while impaired (DWI) in Minnesota depend on the specific criminal charge used by the prosecutor. In total, there are four different types of DWI charges. If you’re wondering what is the punishment for DWI in Minnesota, DWI offenses are categorized by degree. They are ranked 1 to 4, so a 4th degree DWI carries lighter consequences than a 1st degree charge.
If you have been arrested under suspicion of DWI, a conviction could turn your life upside down. In addition to the risk of hefty fines and serious jail time, you could also lose out on your right to vote, own a firearm, or drive. Let the attorneys of Gerald Miller advise you on the potential penalties in your case and assist you with developing a sound defense strategy.
Why Aggravating Factors Matter in Minneapolis
Understanding the penalties of a DWI conviction in Minnesota starts with something known as an “aggravating factor.” All DWI charges require the same evidence to establish guilt. However, the potential penalties a person faces upon conviction will depend on how many aggravating factors were present. When asking what is the punishment for DWI in Minnesota, the more aggravating factors you have, the more serious the charges against you.
There are three types of aggravating factors under the law. The first is having a previous DWI conviction in the last ten years. While prosecutors will consider out-of-state convictions, any DWI conviction that is more than ten years old will not count.
The second type of aggravating factor involves your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If your BAC is .16 or higher, it is considered an aggravating factor in your current case.
Finally, the third aggravating factor involves the presence of minors in a vehicle operated by a drunken driver. If there is a person under the age of sixteen in your vehicle at the time you are stopped for DWI, it is considered an aggravating factor.
A 4th degree DWI is for individuals with no aggravating factors. A 3rd degree DWI is used when a person has one aggravating factor. A 2nd degree DWI involves two aggravating factors. A 1st degree DWI is a felony, and ignores aggravating factors. Instead, it is automatically a felony charge when a person has two prior misdemeanor DWI convictions or one prior felony DWI conviction.
Fourth Degree DWI Convictions in Minnesota
There is no minimum jail term for a fourth degree DWI conviction. While misdemeanor does carry a maximum of 90 days in jail, it is not uncommon for the court to suspend these sentences. It also carries a maximum fine of $1,000. A 4th degree DWI can also carry a 90-day suspension of driving privileges and the requirement of an ignition interlock device.
Third Degree DWI Convictions in Minnesota
A 3rd degree DWI is considered a gross misdemeanor in Minnesota. As a gross misdemeanor, a conviction carries up to a year behind bars and a fine of no more than $3,000. At least 48 hours of this sentence must be spent consecutively in jail or a workhouse, while the remainder may be suspended by the court.
Second Degree DWI Convictions in Minnesota
A 2nd degree DWI is also a gross misdemeanor. Like a 3rd degree offense, a 2nd degree DWI also carries up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $3,000. The major different between the two is the mandatory minimum sentence. A 2nd degree DWI requires a minimum of 90 days, with at least 30 of those days spent consecutively in jail or a workhouse.
First Degree DWI Convictions in Minnesota
When asking what is the punishment for DWI in Minnesota, the most severe are for a 1st degree DWI, which is a felony under state law. Instead of time in county jail, a conviction could lead to a sentence in a state penitentiary. The maximum sentence for felony DWI is 7 years in prison and a fine of no more than $14,000.
Collateral Consequences for a DWI Conviction
While the statutory penalties of a DWI conviction are steep, they represent only some of the consequences that can come with a conviction. There are also collateral consequences to be aware of. A collateral consequence is something that occurs indirectly as the result of your DWI conviction. Unlike jail time and fines, these consequences are not written directly into the criminal statute.
Some collateral consequences occur naturally once news of your conviction becomes public. In other cases, non-criminal statutes could trigger certain consequences upon a conviction. Some of the most common collateral consequences include:
- Loss of Rights. Felony DWI convictions bring the steepest collateral consequences. This includes the loss of rights like your right to vote or own firearms. This loss of rights can follow you for a lifetime.
- Employment Challenges. Felony and misdemeanor DWI convictions alike can result in serious challenges in your professional life. It is not uncommon for employers to deny applications based on nothing more than a person’s criminal history. In fact, most employers can fire a worker based on a DWI conviction.
- Child Custody Disputes. Any criminal conviction could impact a custody hearing. This is especially true if you are convicted of DWI while having a minor child in the car. A conviction could work against you in an ongoing dispute or even result in a new custody hearing.
- Loss of Professional License. Certain professions require licensure. Those that do are overseen by regulatory bodies that have the power to revoke or suspend these licenses. It is not unusual for regulatory bodies to take action against individuals with a DWI conviction—especially for felony cases.
- Housing Issues. Finding appropriate housing could also be difficult with a criminal record. As is the case with employers, a prospective landlord could also deny an application based on nothing more than a criminal record.
Diminishing Penalties in Your DWI Case
For anyone charged with DWI in Minneapolis, the ultimate goal is to have those charges dismissed or to secure an acquittal at trial. The reality is that in some cases the best possible outcome is simply limiting the consequences of your conviction. Even when the case against you is strong, the hard work of your attorneys could reduce the damage a DWI conviction could cause in your life.
In some situations, the attorneys of Gerald Miller could reduce the severity of your DWI charge. Remember, the degree of a DWI offense is based on aggravating factors. If the prosecution attempts to rely on an aggravating factor that does not exist or should not qualify, the end result could be overcharging you.
Our team will work tirelessly to investigate every aspect of your case. If we can show that your prior conviction was outside of the lookback period or otherwise should not qualify as an aggravating factor, we could push the prosecution to reduce the charges against you. A reduction in charges is valuable, as it could lower both the minimum and maximum penalties you will face upon conviction.
The most common way our attorneys could help you limit the penalties associated with a DWI conviction is through plea bargaining. While the court has the ultimate say on penalties following a guilty plea, the judge will generally follow the recommendation of the prosecutor.
Our team can negotiate with the prosecution in order to secure the best possible outcome in your case. While all DWI charges carry steep maximum penalties, we routinely negotiate plea bargains that result in little to no jail time. While we cannot promise a specific outcome in your case, we are prepared to give you the best shot at a favorable outcome in your case.
Advocacy During The Penalty Phase
Sometimes your best option for limiting the consequences of a DWI conviction is to make your case directly to a jury. Even if the evidence of guilt is strong, you could make a compelling case that the penalties sought by the state are too much. This option can be powerful, especially if you are a first-time offender. The attorneys of Gerald Miller can review your case and advise you if a trial is in your best interest.
Reach Out to Gerald Miller About Your DWI Charge in Minneapolis
If you’re asking what is the punishment for DWI in Minnesota, you may want to seek counsel. When you hire an experienced DWI attorney to defend you against a charge for DWI, the ultimate goal is to have your case dismissed entirely. There are a number of other ways your attorney could help, including prevailing at trial or having the severity of the charges against you reduced.
If you are ready to get started building your defense, the attorneys of Gerald Miller can help. Call right away to schedule your free consultation.
This article was originally published on January 2, 2021 and updated on July 19, 2021.