You swore it would never happen, but it did. You were arrested for DWI. A couple of carefree drinks with your friends on a Friday night has suddenly become a very stressful chapter of your life, filled with worry about your career, your driving record, your finances and your reputation.
How did this happen? What do I do? Is there any way out? I thought I was ok. Was I even drunk? I can’t believe this. Was my arrest even necessary?
You likely feel some guilt, embarrassment and shame over your citation. You’re only human. And, you’re not alone: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than one million people in the U.S. were cited for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in 2016, the most recent year figures were reported.
But the way law is structured in Minnesota makes it seem next to impossible to quickly move on from a driving while impaired conviction.
A DWI can negatively affect your life for years, with lingering repercussions like:
- Loss of driving privileges. If you’re an adult arrested for driving while impaired, you will lose your driver’s license for up to a year if it’s a first time offense. A BAC under 0.16 can suspend your license for up to 90 days. A BAC over 0.16 can lead to a year’s suspension. In any instance, your driving privileges can be limited to work or with the use of an ignition lock, which means you can’t start your car until you blow into a device that measures your blood alcohol level. And remember, you can get a DWI in Minnesota if an officer believes you are impaired by illegal drugs like marijuana (still prohibited in Minnesota) and cocaine, but also if you are using pain medication or other prescription drugs that can affect your driving ability.
- Fines and possible jail time. Minnesota’s maximum for a fourth-degree DWI is 90 days in jail and a $1,00 fine. You will lose your license for three months. The judge may sentence you to community service and probation for up to two years.
- Higher vehicle insurance rates. A misdemeanor DWI conviction will cause your auto insurance rates to skyrocket. Rates will eventually go down, but expect to pay more for a few years. You also could be required to obtain SR-22 insurance for high-risk drivers, which is another expense. You could also lose your current insurance coverage if your policy decides to cancel you because of a DWI conviction.
- A blemished record that could diminish job prospects. Most companies check out the criminal records of job candidates. Landlords also conduct background checks before approving a lease agreement. Men and women convicted of driving while impaired are sometimes viewed by others as being reckless, immature or as having an alcohol or drug problem.
None of those options sound good, do they? Asking a judge to dismiss the case or convincing a prosecutor to reduce the charges are the best options for most defendants.
For either have any chance of happening, though, you must contact an experienced DWI lawyer in Minnesota as soon as possible after your arrest. You should have refused to undergo any field sobriety tests after the officer pulled you over – most lawyers will agree that’s a must. Whether you did or not, only an attorney can challenge roadside evidence in court, which the police and prosecution will use against you to secure a conviction. Again, an attorney who specializes in drunk driving cases is crucial to your success.
How can it be done? There are a few options.
DWI breathalyzer tests aren’t foolproof. They are prone to errors which could positively affect your case. The instrument can malfunction, for example, or the police might administer the test incorrectly. Even your diet, your health and environmental factors at the time of your arrest can affect your BAC reading and make it appear higher than it really is. It can be the difference between a BAC under 0.08, which puts you in the clear under Minnesota law, and a BAC which gets you in trouble.
An attorney can challenge the legality of a DWI arrest by questioning whether the officer had probable cause to conduct a traffic stop. He or she has to have seen you weaving in and out of traffic, speeding, following too closely, driving with a burned-out taillight, making a wrong turn or another violation. If your attorney can prove that the stop was illegal, all evidence – including the results of the breath test – are inadmissible in court.
Even if a case cannot be dismissed, your charges can be reduced, which is a positive outcome no matter how you look at it. First-time offenders have a stronger chance to receive lower charges than a repeat offender. Some prosecutors will consider reducing a DWI charge to careless driving if the defendant has no prior offenses, a BAC under 0.10 and a good driving record. It helps if you were cooperative at the time of your arrest and if you followed the instructions of the court prior to your hearing, including completing an alcohol assessment and/or DWI classes.
Bottom line: dismissing or reducing DWI charges are usually a long shot. Prosecutors have an interest in convicting people of drunk driving to the fullest extent of the law to encourage others to stay sober on the road. But a solution that makes the process easier for you is possible. That’s why hiring a solid legal team is important to the outcome of your case.
What to do?
A drunk driving citation in Minnesota is known as a DWI, which stands for driving while impaired. Many states refer to the charge as a DUI, short for diving under the influence.
Regardless of what authorities call it, a police officer can arrest someone on suspicion of DWI even if he or she hasn’t been drinking. In Minnesota, “impaired” can be applied to a person who is taking legal prescription drugs or even someone who is overly tired. It’s all up to the discretion of the arresting officer.
Sound like you or someone you know? Contact the experienced Minnesota DWI attorneys Gerald Miller, P.A. Our expert team will look at your case and determine the best course of action. We will guide you through the process, working toward a positive outcome no matter the circumstances of the arrest.
We are often asked, “Should I contest this case?” Yes. You should, absolutely, positively 100 percent of the time. Every arrest is different; few are open and shut cases. We look at every aspect of the case, from time of the arrest to the officer’s actions to the accuracy of your Breathalyzer test. There is always hope.
What makes Gerald Miller different from other Minnesota criminal defense lawyers?
The Minneapolis lawyers at Gerald Miller handle all aspects of criminal law across the Twin Cities and statewide – we can defend you on traffic citations, drug charges, theft, weapons charges, probation and parole violations and more – but we have specialized in DWIs for decades. A DWI affects your driving ability, your finances and your professional reputation. Don’t let one mistake hinder a promising future.
We can help you put this behind you.
Call the attorneys at Gerald Miller today at 612-440-4610. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to give you some answers, a little hope and plenty of well-deserved peace of mind.
A DWI or DUI charge can happen to anybody. We are on your side.