Minnesota has DWI laws in place that are meant to curb drunk driving as well as punish those that are found guilty of the offense. Penalties associated with DWI in the state are quite stiff and may involve lengthy prison terms as well as hefty penalties. There are other serious consequences, such as the likelihood of losing one's driving privileges.
For that reason, it is advisable to try and fight your DWI charge if you are facing one in the state today. At Ringstrom Law, we provide excellent DWI defense services to ensure that our clients are reasonably charged. With our help, the court can either reduce or drop your charges, depending on the nature and circumstances of your charges. If you are in Moorhead, get in touch with us today.
An Overview of Minnesota DWI Laws
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a grave crime in all the 50 states in the country, as well as in the District of Columbia. It is an offense that calls for the immediate arrest and consequently facing both criminal and administrative charges. The severity of each crime depends on several factors, including the number of prior offenses as well as the offender's criminal history.
In the state of Minnesota, this is the offense that is known as driving while intoxicated, abbreviated as DWI. Minnesota DWI laws apply to any person that is found guilty of operating a vehicle or in physical control of a vehicle while intoxicated by either drugs or alcohol. The rules also apply to anyone that is found with a BAC of .08% or more within a two-hour driving time. A Minnesota resident could also be found guilty of DWI if he/she has any amount of drugs under schedule I or II as per the controlled substances act in their body while operating a vehicle.
DWI laws in the state of Minnesota cut across all drivers, both personal and commercial drivers. The codes are more stringent when it comes to underage as well as commercial drivers. Commercial drivers are, for instance, only allowed to operate with an extremely low BAC of below .04%. This is because an impaired commercial driver will be more dangerous on the road, mainly if he/she is operating a vehicle with a full tank of gasoline or he/she is carrying school children.
BAC Limits in Minnesota
The state per se blood alcohol concentration limit is usually set at .08% for all motorists. The limit is determined through testing to establish the amount of alcohol concentration in the driver’s blood. The results are enough to confirm that the driver was operating while intoxicated. When a motorist’s BAC is determined, there will be no need for further evidence to convict him/her of DWI. The court will, for instance, not ask for physical evidence that showed that the motorist was indeed intoxicated at the time of the arrest.
In addition to that, the state of Minnesota has a zero-tolerance law for underage drivers. The state has its legal drinking age set at 21. This law makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to buy or possess alcohol. It means that severe penalties will be applied to any driver below the age of 21 who will be found even with the slightest amount of alcohol in their system.
There are aggravated DWI laws in Minnesota too, which apply to a more severe case of drunk driving. A standard DWI charge in the state will always be severely punished. However, some situations will enhance the penalties for a DWI in the state. These situations are known as aggravating factors, and they are, for instance, operating with a much higher BAC. An extremely high BAC automatically means that you have total disregard for public safety. Other aggravating factors include driving under the influence with a minor in the vehicle and having several DWI convictions within ten years.
Minnesota Implied Consent Law
When law enforcement officers stop an intoxicated motorist, it automatically means that the officers have a good reason to believe that the motorist is intoxicated. Other than finding physical evidence that might prove that the motorist is indeed operating under the influence, the officers will administer some tests to determine his/her BAC. Some drivers will not agree to the test because they are sure that the results will be used as evidence against them in a criminal court. While this may seem like a smart move, it could be a criminal offense.
The state of Minnesota, just like most states in the United States, has an implied consent law. The law means that any person operating a vehicle in the state has automatically consented to chemical testing to determine their blood-alcohol content, whether it is breath or blood test. If any motorist refuses to submit to this testing, it will be considered as a criminal offense, punishable by law. In this case, the person could lose their driver’s license to suspension for a maximum period of one year.
The implied consent laws allow police officers to submit tests alongside checking for physical evidence of intoxication once they strop a driver on suspicion for DWI. Most drivers do not submit to the chemical tests, and since officers cannot force them to breathe into the breathalyzer or provide a blood sample, they send a report in the criminal court that the driver failed to submit to the test. It is easy to be found not guilty of DUI if there are no BAC results to show your exact blood-alcohol concentration. However, the driver will have to be penalized for refusing to take the test. Again, there are other indications of intoxication that could be used to convict him/her.
The process of obtaining a breath sample for BAC testing is different from that of getting a urine or blood sample. Minnesota laws require the police to obtain a warrant if they want the driver to provide a urine or blood sample for BAC testing. However, a permit is not needed to get a breath sample. To be granted a warrant to require a urine or blood sample, the officer must prove that he/she has a probable cause for arresting the motorist for DWI. If the officer had administered other preliminary tests, the results might help him/her obtain the warrant if there is a good reason to believe that the motorist was indeed operating under the influence.
Criminal Penalties for Minnesota DWI Conviction
A DWI charge in the state of Minnesota results in both administrative and criminal penalties. In a criminal court, the driver must be found guilty of DWI beyond a reasonable doubt for him/her to be convicted of the charge. To be found guilty, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant was operating, in physical control of or driving a vehicle while:
- He/she was under the effects of drugs or alcohol
- He/she was willingly under the impact of a hazardous drug that affects a body's abilities to operate a vehicle
- He/she has a BAC of .08% or more
- He/she had a significant amount of Schedule I or Schedule II in their blood. Marijuana is exempted from this
If any of these elements are correct, then the person can be legally arrested for DWI in the state.
A judge imposes criminal penalties for DWI in a criminal court after the defendant is found guilty of operating while intoxicated.
If it is the defendant’s first DWI charge, he/she will face a misdemeanor conviction. The penalties for this will be the maximum jail time of 90 days and/or a fine of $1000. Note that these penalties will increase to gross misdemeanor conviction if the following are true:
- That the defendant refused to submit to DWI testing
- That the defendant had a BAC of 0.16% or more
- That the defendant was driving with a minor below 16 years in the car at the time of the arrest
Penalties for gross misdemeanor DWI in the state will go up to one year behind bars and a maximum fine of $3000.
A defendant could also get a felony DWI conviction in the state, which is known as the first-degree DWI. It is a conviction given to the following offenders:
- Those who have a fourth DWI conviction in ten years
- Those who have a previous felony DWI conviction
A felony DWI conviction is punishable by a maximum of seven years behind bars and a fine of not more than $14,000.
This is how criminal convictions for DWI in Minnesota are classified:
4th-degree DWI. This is always a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of 90 days behind bars and a fine of not more than $1000. This is the conviction a first-DWI offender gets. Note that the first offender will also be required to submit to DWI chemical testing. If not, their penalties will increase to the 3rd-degree conviction. Again, there must not be any aggravating factors for the DWI offender to get this conviction
3rd-degree DWI. It is a gross misdemeanor conviction in the state, punishable by a maximum of one year behind bars and a maximum fine of $3000. This is the conviction a second DWI offender gets in the state, or a first offender that fails to submit to chemical testing. A first offender whose case has any of the aggravating factors mentioned earlier will also receive this conviction
2nd- degree DWI. This, too, is a gross misdemeanor conviction and is given to a DWI offender who has to prior DWI conviction in 10 years. It is also given to a second- offender who refuses to submit to chemical testing, or a first-offender with two aggravating factors
1st-degree DWI. This is always a felony, punishable as above. It is the conviction given to the fourth DWI offenders with three prior convictions in 10 years.
Note that all these penalties are subject to enhancement if the DWI offense results in property damage, accident, physical injuries, or death.
Administrative Penalties for DWI in Minnesota
In addition to criminal penalties listed above, a DWI offender also faces administrative penalties in the state of Minnesota. Administrative penalties are equally stiff, enough to make a motorist think twice before getting behind the wheels while intoxicated. There are three types of administrative penalties that DWI offenders in the state get. Each of them affects the driver's ability to legally operate their vehicle, motorcycle, and any other means of transportation.
In most cases, these are the penalties a driver could get:
- Impoundment of a vehicle’s license place: a DWI offense may cause the police to physically impound your vehicle's license plate, depending on the circumstances surrounding your case and your criminal history. Impoundment, in this case, will apply to all the cars the offender operates or own, whether jointly or alone.
- Vehicle forfeiture: Your vehicle could be subjected to complete forfeiture too. It mostly happens in cases where the car was involved in the commission of a more serious offense, such as the 3rd-DWI offense within ten years.
- Driver’s license revocation or suspension: The most common administrative penalty for DWI offenders in the state is losing their driver’s license to either suspension or revocation. The sentence occurs automatically and immediately after a DWI arrest. The offender will, however, be issued with a temporary driver’s license to use within seven days before the suspension/revocation is put into effect. The seven-day period is also enough for the driver to appeal the suspension/revocation, which is possible in certain situations.
Note that a motorist’s driver’s license can be suspended or revoked immediately after he/she fails to submit to DWI testing or fails a chemical test. The period within which the driver loses his/her driving privilege depends on the nature of the current offense and the number of prior DWI convictions in their record.
First-DWI offenders are likely to lose their driving privileges for between 90-180 days in a case involving a driver under the age of 21 with a BAC of below 0.16%. Other drivers above the legal driving age, who are found with a BAC of 0.16% or more are likely to get their licenses suspended for one year. Any driver who is under suspicion for driving while intoxicated but refuses to submit to DWI testing will have their licenses suspended for a year.
Second DWI offenders, on the other hand, will lose their driver’s license to suspension for two years. Third and subsequent DWI offenders in the state will have their licenses canceled and denied for three years and more, depending on the number of DWI convictions on their criminal record.
How to Challenge a Minnesota DWI ChargeA DWI conviction in the state of Minnesota is severe since it attracts severe and life-changing penalties. Other than spending time behind bars, there is a high chance of losing your driver's license to suspension or revocation. A DWI conviction in your criminal record does not look appealing to would-be employers and might deny you a chance to get better employment in the future. That is why you need the help of an experienced DWI attorney to help you fight your charges. With proper defense, the court may be compelled to either reduce or drop your charges. The good thing is that many defense strategies can be used to challenge your DWI charge. Some of them are:
There are several ways in which the police can make mistakes while arresting a DWI offender, which might be useful in your defense. If the police failed to Mirandize, the prosecutor will not use any statements the offender makes as evidence in a criminal court. The police also need to have a probable cause for arrest before stopping and arresting a motorist for DWI. If there were no indications of intoxication, but you were stopped and arrested, any evidence gathered against you will not be useful in court.
This defense will be useful if you or your attorney believes that the chemical test was not conducted well. Breathalyzers are well-known to provide false results in most cases, and this may have happened in your case. If the testing device that was used in your case was not approved or adequately maintained, there will be no guarantee that the results were reliable. The same defense would apply if there is proof that the person who administered the test was not properly trained.
Find a Moorhead DWI Defense Attorney Near Me
You need a proper defense to ensure that you are not facing the harsh criminal and administrative penalties associated with the crime of a Minnesota DWI. Therefore, our reputable Moorhead DWI attorneys at Ringstrom Law are here to help you. We will take you through the legal process and ensure your rights are not violated as well as negotiate with prosecutors and defend you in court. Get in touch with us today at 218-284-0484 to assess your case for free.