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What’s Worse: DUI or DWI?

The terms DUI and DWI are used interchangeably. While that is not the case in every jurisdiction, these acronyms do not represent unique charges. Instead, they each represent an offense known as “driving while impaired.” Given that they are two names for the same offense, it is impossible for one to be worse than the other. 

A DWI offense is a serious charge no matter what acronym you use. Jail time is always possible, and the fines that come with this offense can be overwhelming. An aggressive defense is the best way to avoid the consequences that can come with a conviction. 

If you are ready to fight back against your DWI charge, the attorneys at Gerald Miller are ready to help. Call right away to schedule an initial consultation.

Understanding DWI Law

The charge of DWI is governed by Minnesota Statute Section 169A.20. According to the statute, it is unlawful for a person to operate, drive, or exert physical control over a motor vehicle while impaired. 

It is not hard to understand what would qualify as operating or driving a motor vehicle. The definition of physical control is less clear, though. This aspect of the offense was included by the legislature to not only penalize drunken driving, but also cover intoxicated individuals with the means to drive drunk in short order. When a court determines if a driver was in physical control of a vehicle, they will consider where the person was located inside or outside of the vehicle, where the keys to the vehicle were, and if the vehicle was operable at the time. 

While the definition of physical control is open-ended, the statute provides extensive guidance on what constitutes impairment. In total, there are seven factors that qualify as impairment under the state. The prosecution only needs to establish one of these to secure a conviction for DWI. The factors include:

  1. The person is under the influence of alcohol
  2. The person is under the influence of a controlled substance
  3. 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
  4. The person is under the influence of a combination of any two or more of the elements named in clauses (1) to (3)
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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

This multi-faceted approach allows the prosecution to rely on the results of a BAC test if they choose, but it is flexible enough to allow them to proceed with charges even in cases where the defendant failed to submit to a chemical test.

Viable Defenses to a DWI Charge

No matter what name you use for a drunken driving offense, a favorable outcome in your case is a possibility. There are too many potential defenses in a DWI case to name all of them, but the most common fall into two broad categories. The first involves attacking the traffic stop that initiated the arrest. The second involves testing the accuracy and admissibility of the results of the chemical test. 

Challenging the Stop 

As a motorist, you have the right to go about your travels free from the fear of an unlawful traffic stop. The United States Constitution guarantees that you the police cannot pull you over without reasonable suspicion that you have committed a moving violation or other criminal offense. Unfortunately, the police frequently ignore this requirement. 

Police officers often push the limits of their ability to make a police stop even though their power is already substantial. The police only need the thinnest of excuses to pull a motorist over; any perceived traffic violation will suffice. This is true even if the officer’s ulterior motive was to investigate if the driver was intoxicated or violating some other statute. 

Despite this broad power, law enforcement continues to stop drivers despite lacking any reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred. If the police pulled you over illegally prior to your DWI arrest, it could dramatically increase your chances of an acquittal. 

An attorney can seek to have all evidence collected at an unlawful traffic stop or afterwards excluded from trial. Under the law, the state may not use any evidence obtained illegally against you. This could include any incriminating statements you made at the stop, any open containers found in your vehicle, or the results of a breath test you would have never submitted to had you not been stopped unlawfully. 

Challenges to the Test

Challenges to the results of the chemical test you submitted to are another common defense in DWI cases. The police are bound by certain protocols when collecting blood, breath, or urine samples for testing. Likewise, the labs that analyze these samples are all under strict regulations. The failure to carefully follow these regulations could result in inaccurate test results. For this reason, your attorney could have the results of your chemical test thrown out if they can establish that the government failed to follow their own guidelines.

Reach Out to a DWI Defense Attorney Today 

From investigating your case to plotting defense strategy, your attorney will play a critical role in every aspect of your DWI case. If you have questions about how best to proceed, let the attorneys at Gerald Miller review your case and assist you with your defense. Call on (612) 341-9080 right away to schedule a free consultation

About the author

Kyle Dreger

Kyle Dreger is a skilled DUI/DWI and Criminal Defense lawyer at Gerald Miller P.A. Kyle has received his law degree from the University of St. Thomas School of Law. He is also a professionally trained basketball player.

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