Felony DWI

If you have been arrested for felony DWI in Minnesota, you risk facing serious consequences that may include fines, revocation of your driver’s license, jail time, impoundment of your license plate, as well as vehicle forfeiture. You can avoid these punishments by fighting your DWI charges.

Over the years, we at Ringstrom Law have gathered extensive experience in helping defendants who have been charged with DWI. Our attorneys are highly conversant with all types of DWI charges in Minnesota, including fourth-degree DWI, third-degree DWI, second degree DWI, as well as felony DWI.

The best bet for you to obtain a dismissal of your drunk driving charges in Moorhead is to hire an experienced and reliable DWI attorney. Don’t risk your future by attempting to speak out for yourself. At Ringstrom Law, we are well-equipped and have all it takes to enable you to obtain the most favorable outcome. Contact us to learn more about our services.

What is Felony DWI?

In Minnesota, a felony DWI is also referred to as the first-degree DWI. According to Minnesota’s drunk driving laws, a person can be charged with DWI if he/she drives or operates a vehicle while:

  • intoxicated or under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • having a BAC that is 0.08% or higher

Just like any other state in the US, Minnesota has a prescribed BAC limit. This limit is 0.08%. If your BAC exceeds this limit, you will be charged with per se DWI. However, holders of commercial driver’s licenses should not exceed a BAC of 0.04%.

You will also be held to have committed a criminal offense if you refused to submit to the chemical breath test upon request by a law enforcement officer. This offense is usually referred to as test refusal or implied consent, and it is treated the same way as a DWI.

A DWI can be charged as a felony in the state of Minnesota if the motor vehicle driver has:

  • been convicted of three prior DWI offenses within ten years from the date of the first DWI conviction
  • a previous conviction of felony DWI
  • a prior conviction of vehicular injury that involved drugs or alcohol
  • a prior conviction of felony vehicular homicide

Felony DWI vs. Misdemeanor DWI

Generally, the Minnesota Criminal Justice Department views fourth-degree DWI, third-degree DWI, and second-degree DWI as misdemeanors. However, both second-degree DWI and third-degree DWI can be elevated to gross misdemeanors in the presence of various aggravating factors. Some of these aggravating factors include having a BAC of 0.16% or higher, refusing to take the BAC chemical breath test, or having a child inside your vehicle while drunk driving.

Fourth degree DWI has the least severe penalties. DWI is categorized as a priorable offense in the state of Minnesota. This means that its penalties increase with each subsequent charge within a timeframe of ten years. For instance, the punishments of second-degree DWI are more severe than those for third-degree DWI. The first-degree DWI, which is also referred to as felony DWI, has the most severe penalties.

Unlike misdemeanor DWI, a felony DWI charge cannot be aggravated by certain factors, such as having an extremely high BAC or refusing to take the chemical breath test. Instead, the prosecution will only consider if you have any prior DWI related convictions when deciding whether or not to charge you with felony DWI.

What Happens after you have been Arrested for Felony DWI?

A law enforcement officer may motion you to pull over if he/she suspects you of intoxicated driving. A police officer may suspect you of driving while intoxicated if you exhibit certain signs of carelessness or recklessness, or you break a particular traffic law.

Moreover, there are several DWI checkpoints within Moorhead. A law enforcement officer can flag you down at any of these checkpoints without even having a probable cause.

Immediately you stop, the police officer may subject you to a field sobriety test. You may also be requested to take a preliminary chemical breath test. You will be put under arrest for DWI if your test results turn out to be positive.

After you have been arrested, you will be taken into police custody. While at the police station, you may be asked to take an additional breath test, blood test, or urine test. The prosecution may charge you under Minnesota’s implied consent laws if you refuse to take any of these tests.

Some DWI investigation officers may attempt to question you further. We advise you to avoid answering these questions because you may unknowingly incriminate yourself. What you need to do is only to provide them with your name and contact information and then get in touch with a defense attorney.

Typically, law enforcement officers will check your criminal record during the booking process. If they find out that you have three prior DWI convictions or a previous conviction of felony DWI or felony vehicular manslaughter or vehicular injury, they may convince the prosecutor to charge you with felony DWI.

You will be released from police custody after you have posted bail. You can pay the bail amount in cash at the courthouse, or contact a bail bonds agent to help you raise the required amount.

Felony DWI Criminal Court Trials

There are several stages of the Minnesota Felony DWI Criminal Court Trial Process. Some of these stages include arraignment, pre-trial hearing, suppression hearing, trial, and sentencing. Here is a brief discussion of each of these stages:

The first hearing of your DUI court case is usually referred to as ‘arraignment.’ During the arraignment, your charges will be read out to you, and you will be asked to take a plea. As a layperson, you may not know which plea you should take to obtain the most favorable outcome. This is why you must contact an attorney for professional legal advice.  

The judge may also set out various terms and conditions that you should adhere to during your bail release. Moreover, during the arraignment stage, you can petition the court to reduce the bail amount or vary some of the bail conditions.

Overall, the primary purpose of the arraignment is to enable you to understand your rights and entitlements during the criminal trial process. If you have hired an attorney, you may decide not to attend this first court hearing.

A pre-trial hearing is normally scheduled within 45 days after the date of your arraignment. Here, your defense attorney may enter into a plea bargain with the prosecution. This way, you will plead guilty to a much lesser charge and face more lenient penalties. If there is no settlement reached, your case will proceed to the trial stage.  

Your defense attorney can convene a suppression hearing if he/she believes that the court should exclude some pieces of evidence from applying in your case because the prosecution acquired them illegally, or they were gathered in contravention of your human rights. For instance, if a law enforcement officer failed to conduct a BAC blood test in the proper way as stipulated by the law, your attorney will request a suppression hearing to convince the court not to consider the blood test evidence when determining your case. In the state of Minnesota, a suppression hearing is also referred to as an omnibus hearing.  

The prosecution has the right to begin during a trial for felony DWI. The prosecutor will present all his/her evidence against you, as well as summon his/her witnesses to testify. Your defense attorney will be permitted to cross-examine these witnesses.  

After the prosecutor has closed his/her case, your attorney will tell your side of the story and utilize all possible means to defend you. For instance, he/she may challenge or discredit the prosecution’s evidence or summon expert witnesses to convince the court that you are innocent.

Furthermore, your attorney can raise various defense arguments. Some of the most common defenses to felony DWI charges include mistake, no probable cause, incorrect procedures when conducting BAC tests, and false BAC results, among others. Note that each case is unique, and the type of defense strategy that your attorney will use will depend on the facts and circumstances surrounding what happened before, during, and after the arrest. This is why you must be honest when speaking with your attorney.

You will receive a sentence if you had accepted a negotiated plea, or the court has found you to be guilty of felony DWI. The typical punishment for misdemeanor DWI is a county jail term of a maximum of one year. On the other hand, you risk facing a state prison term of 3 – 7 years if you have been convicted of felony DWI. You may also have to part with almost $14,000 in court-imposed fines and penalty assessments.  

According to Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines for felony DWI, convicts are not considered to be eligible for early release on parole until they have completed the chemical dependency medical treatment. After a felony DWI convict has been released from prison, he/she will have to serve a five-year conditional release period. The terms of the conditional release are usually set by a correction officer and may include probation. If you fail to comply with any of the terms of the conditional release, you can land back in state prison.

Generally, the minimum state prison sentence that is imposed on felony DWI convicts in Minnesota is three years. In some situations, the court may opt to stay the state prison sentence and, in the alternative, impose intensive probation or a county jail sentence. In these situations, the convict must adhere to all the restrictive conditions the court orders, including staying on continuous alcohol monitoring and completing a chemical dependency medical treatment program. If a convict fails to observe any of the probation conditions, the court will send him/her to state prison.

Felony DWI Administrative Penalties

These are three primary administrative sanctions for felony DWI in the state of Minnesota:

  • License cancellation
  • Vehicle forfeiture
  • Vehicle plate impoundment

Below, we will discuss each of these administrative penalties in greater detail:

License Cancellation

Your driver’s license can be canceled after you've been arrested for felony DWI. However, before the cancellation becomes effective, you will be given a temporary seven-day driver’s license. When this period lapses, you will lose your driving privileges unless you appeal via the court or to the DPS.

As per Minnesota’s DWI laws, the license cancellation period for felony DWI is 4 – 6 years. You will be permitted to regain your driving privileges when this period lapses.

Vehicle Plate Impoundment

You may be forced to surrender your license plates to the authorities after you have been arrested for felony DWI. Besides felony DWI, any DWI with an aggravating factor may result in vehicle plate impoundment.

Generally, the authorities may opt to physically seize the license plate of the vehicle involved in the DWI and any other vehicles registered under your name. The law enforcement officer who arrested you for felony DWI may issue you with a vehicle plate impoundment order, and this order will be implemented immediately. You will also be issued with a seven-day vehicle permit or a 45-day vehicle permit if you weren’t the owner of the DWI-related auto. Then, you can apply for new license plates. These new license plates are usually specially coded to signify to law enforcement officers that your regular plates were impounded because of a DWI.

Note that felony DWI offenders cannot be permitted to drive on these new license plates unless they are validly relicensed. The minimum period for vehicle plate impoundment is 12 months. During this period, you will have to adhere to certain restrictive conditions when acquiring or selling motor vehicles. You can prevent this administrative sanction from being implemented by appealing to the court or the DPS.

Vehicle Forfeiture

You risk facing vehicle forfeiture as an administrative penalty if you have been arrested for felony DWI. The police officer who arrested you may seize your vehicle and inform the Minnesota Prosecution Department to serve you with a notice of intention to forfeit. Unless you appeal within 60 days via a civil suit, law enforcement agencies will either sell or keep your car for official use.

Protecting Your Driving Privileges after a Felony DWI Arrest

You can avoid the administrative penalties of felony DWI if you hire a competent and experienced DWI defense attorney. Note that it is more challenging to protect your driving privileges after a felony DWI arrest when compared to second-degree DWI, third-degree DWI, or fourth-degree DWI. As a felony DWI offender, you may be a victim of negative bias due to your drunk driving criminal history.

There are two major ways to protect your driving privileges after a felony DWI arrest. These methods include:

  • Requesting for administrative review
  • Petitioning for a judicial review

Administrative reviews may not be very helpful, unless there was a significant error made during the imposition of the administrative penalties, such as wrongful calculation of the license cancellation period. The most effective way to fight license cancellations, plate impoundments, and vehicle forfeitures is to petition for a judicial review.

You must petition for a judicial review within thirty days from the date when the license cancellation, plate impoundment, or vehicle forfeiture order was given. Then, your defense attorney will challenge the imposition of the administrative penalties using both legal and factual grounds in a judicial review hearing. The judge will decide the outcome of your case, and if it turns out to be favorable, you will retain your driving privileges.

Reinstating your Driving Privileges after an Administrative Sanction

You will have to make an application to the Department of Public Safety to restore your driving privileges after an administrative sanction. However, the DPS will only reinstate your driving privileges after you have completed the specified administrative sanction period. For you to get back your driving privileges, you must show proof of the following:

  • Completion of a rehabilitation program
  • Absolute and continued abstinence from using drugs and alcohol
  • Successful completion of a chemical dependency medical treatment program

You will also be required to pass the license application exam if you had applied for a reinstatement of your driver’s license. Moreover, you will be obliged to pay any fee that the DPS may prescribe for you to reinstate your driving privileges.

The Total Cost of a Felony DWI

It is difficult to stipulate the total cost of a felony DWI. However, the costs of both the administrative and criminal penalties may be quite considerable, and they may include:

  • Criminal fines
  • Chemical dependency evaluation fees
  • Monitoring and treatment costs
  • Penalty and bail assessments
  • License examination fees
  • DWI reinstatement fees
  • Plate impoundment fees
  • IID installation and maintenance fees

Find a Moorhead Felony DWI Attorney Near Me

Minnesota felony DWI law is extremely complex. Each case has its unique facts, and this is why you must get in touch with a reliable Moorhead DWI attorney.

We at Ringstrom Law can help you understand how Minnesota DWI law applies to your case. We can also assist you in deciding the best legal steps to take to obtain the most favorable outcome. Call us today at 218-284-0484 for a free case evaluation.
MN criminal defense attorneys Bruce Ringstrom Jr. & Bruce Ringstrom Sr.

Bruce Ringstrom Jr. & Bruce Ringstrom Sr.

Criminal Defense Attorneys in MN & ND

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  • Minnesota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • MSBA: Minnesota State Bar Association
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • State Bar Association of North Dakota
  • Minnesota State Bar Association Criminal Law

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