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Minnesota DWI: Frequently Asked Questions

A DWI arrest triggers a lot of fear and anxiety in most people. Much of that stress stems from the unknown. Knowing what you’re facing is the best way to deal – along with the help of a Minnesota attorney who specializes in DWI cases.

Clients usually have a lot of questions when they seek our help. Here are a few of the most common.

 Q: I got a DWI. How much is this going to cost me?

 A: You will have fines to pay if you’re convicted of a DWI in Minnesota. How big those fines are depends on your DWI charge and whether it is a first, second or third offense. If your blood alcohol concentration for a first-time DWI offense was lower than 0.16 percent, you can pay a fine of up to $1,000. However, if during that offense, you also had a child in your car, you can pay a fine of up to $3,000.

There also is a license reinstatement fee of $680 and a possible $120 a month for an ignition interlock device if you’re allowed to still drive. On top of criminal fines, there are court costs, probation fees and other expenses that vary.

Your lawyer will try to eliminate or at least reduce as many court-ordered fines and costs as possible.

Q: Will I go to jail?

A: Jail is always a possibility. Whether jail is more likely or not depends largely on the degree of the DWI – first, second, third or fourth degree. It also depends on how many DWIs you have on your criminal record.

However, there are maximum jail sentences that a judge cannot go beyond.

For example, the maximum sentence for a fourth-degree DWI is 90 days in county jail. The maximum sentence for a second or third-degree DWI is a year in jail. A first-degree DWI carries a possible year in prison depending on the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s criminal and driving record.

Some judges will agree to jail alternatives, like electronic home monitoring, sentence to serve or community service. A jail sentence can also be stayed by a court if you agree to complete other sanctions.

Criminal consequences for a DWI offense might also include probation, alcohol treatment and rehabilitation and chemical dependency evaluations. It’s  up to the discretion of the judge and the facts surrounding your case. That is why it is imperative that you call an experienced DWI attorney after your arrest. As with any criminal case, your attorney will have fees needed to represent you in court.

Q: Am I going to lose my driver’s license? For how long?

 A: Yes. Even a first-time DWI offense where your BAC is less than 0.16 percent results in some loss of driving privileges for as long as a year.

The greater the degree of the offense – and depending on the circumstances of the case – the longer the revocation period. If you’ve been convicted of three or more DWI offenses within ten years (or four offenses in a lifetime), your driver’s license can be cancelled as you may at that point be considered a threat to public safety under the law.

There are options, though. You may have driving privileges reinstated by receiving a worker’s permit or other restricted permit. Use of an ignition interlock device may also allow you to drive during a license revocation. You can, and should, challenge this license loss by filing a complaint against the Commissioner of Public Safety. A successful challenge to the license revocation can result in having no license loss at all.

 Q: How is this going to affect my future? Will it stay on my record forever?

A: A DWI conviction in Minnesota can change your life for a long time. Even after you’ve paid your fines and court costs, had your drivers’ license reinstated and fulfilled all your other legal obligations, a DWI conviction can sneak up on you.

  • Background checks. Most companies check out the criminal records of job candidates. A first-offense DWI conviction in Minnesota will show up on your record (even though it’s not a felony) and make you seem like a less-desirable choice than you would be otherwise. Employers often look at people convicted of a DWI as being irresponsible. They also worry the candidate has a problem with alcohol or drugs (a DWI means driving while impaired,so you can get cited using even legally-prescribed drugs before getting behind the wheel) that will affect job performance. Also, landlords conduct background checks, so a DWI on your record can stop you from getting that dream apartment you’ve had your eye on.
  • Insurance rates. A misdemeanor DWI conviction will cause your auto insurance rates to skyrocket for years – sometimes double or tripling. You could also lose your current insurance coverage if your policy decides to cancel you because of a DWI conviction.
  • Reputation and image. A DWI can make your current employer and colleagues think less of you even down the road. The arrest and/or conviction could end up in the local newspaper’s police blotter. People tend to remember others’ mistakes, which is an unfortunate truth.
  • Future citations. One of the biggest things to think about moving forward, is that DWI’s are enhanceable. That means that any prior DWI conviction or loss of license within a 10 year look-back period will make a new DWI case more serious. Some people feel like a first offense misdemeanor DWI may not be too painful right away, but it creates an enhancement that makes second and future offenses more damaging and punitive.

Q: Is there any hope for a dismissal?

A: Yes. But the key is finding an experienced DWI attorney who will look at the circumstances of the case, how the police conducted their investigation and weigh every possible outcome. Don’t go it alone. You need a team to fight for you so you can move on with your life as quickly as possible.

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.

You can email us here. We can also be reached on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

A DWI or DUI charge can happen to anybody. We are on your side.

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