Minnesota’s Drunk Driving Laws
Minnesota’s statutes regarding DWI are similar to other US states in terms of what constitutes drunk driving, the grounds for an arrest, the types of proceedings that these charges trigger, and implied consent. An overview may be helpful.
Basis of a Drunk Driving Arrest
In general, you can be charged with drunk driving under two different circumstances:
1. You have a BAC of .08 percent or higher as measured by a breath or other chemical test, such as a blood or urine test; OR,
2. You’re driving under the influence of alcohol to the point where you’re impaired.
You could even be arrested if you actually have a BAC under the legal limit if your driving conduct, statements, actions, and demeanor give police grounds to believe that you’ve consumed an amount of alcohol that affects your capabilities.
Two Proceedings in a DWI Case
Every drunk driving arrest triggers two separate proceedings. One is administrative through the Department of Driver Vehicle Services (DVS), and it affects your driver’s license. This is commonly referred to as the Implied Consent case. Being able to legally drive is a privilege in Minnesota, not a right. Just as DVS can issue you a license, it can take it away if you violate administrative regulations regarding DWI. A BAC test result of .08 or higher will trigger a revocation of your MN driving privileges.
The second proceeding is a criminal case, since drunk driving is against the law. If convicted of DWI, you face criminal penalties described below.
Minnesota’s Implied Consent Law
State law presumes that any motorist who operates a vehicle has impliedly consented to allow a breath, blood, or urine test to determine the presence of alcohol. Refusal to take the BAC chemical test is a separate crime with harsh penalties, usually in addition to a DWI.
While this summary may be helpful, there are many other complicated subtleties involved with the statutes and administrative regulations. You can rely on our MN DWI lawyers to explain how the laws apply to your case.
Criminal Penalties and Other Consequences for a DUI Conviction
The exact nature of the criminal penalties and administrative sanctions for a DWI in Minnesota depend upon a number of factors, the most critical being your history with drunk driving convictions. Therefore:
- For a first offense with a BAC of .08 to .15, you could be sentenced to three months in jail, a maximum fine of $1,000, and a 90-day revocation of your driver’s license. The penalties are increased to up to one year in jail, a $3,000 fine, and a one-year revocation of driving privileges if your test result revealed a BAC of .16 or higher, even on a first offense.
- A second offense for drunk driving within a ten-year period may lead to one-year incarceration, a fine up to $3,000, and a one-year driver’s license revocation.
- The stakes are much higher for each subsequent conviction, especially where aggravating circumstances are present, such as a BAC of .16 or higher. You could face gross misdemeanor charges, or even a felony charge that carries up to seven years imprisonment. Your driver’s license could be completely canceled, and your fine may reach $14,000.
In addition to fines, jail time, and implications for your driving privileges, there are other consequences for a DWI that you may not expect. For instance:
- You may have to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your car once your revocation is complete. This device will prevent your car from starting if it detects alcohol when you blow into it. The cost of installation and monthly service is your responsibility.
- Your auto insurance premiums will likely skyrocket, as insurers usually increase the rates for “high risk” drivers.
- A DWI conviction will remain part of your criminal record, so it may show up if you’re subject to a background check for purposes of employment, loans, education, and other reasons.
- The state may seize your vehicle – take it away from you – and attempt to forfeit the vehicle – permanently remove it from your possession. The state may seek to forfeit your vehicle on a second offense in a ten-year period if your BAC on that second offense is .16 or higher. The state will almost certainly come after your vehicle on a third, or more, offense in a ten-year period.
There are additional consequences for a conviction on drunk driving charges, including mandatory alcohol abuse counseling and impoundment of license plates. A Minnesota DWI attorney can explain in more detail.
Take Action After an Arrest for DWI in Minnesota
Your first step after being charged with drunk driving is to consult with a DWI attorney in Minneapolis or St. Paul.. Some other tips may be useful to protect your rights and potentially support your defense strategy, such as:
- Don’t resist police efforts when they’re making the arrest. Fighting or otherwise interfering with officers could lead to much more serious criminal charges.
- Avoid making any statements or professing your innocence when charged with DWI. If officers ask where you were going to or coming from, politely decline to answer and tell them you need to speak with your lawyer.
- Enroll in an alcohol or substance abuse counseling course right away. It’s likely that this will be court-ordered anyway, so you can get started even before your court date. Taking the initiative can go a long way in convincing the judge that you take the drunk driving arrest seriously.
Contact a Minnesota DWI Lawyer to Schedule Your Free Consultation
For more information on DWI charges, penalties, and defense options, please contact Arechigo & Stokka, P.A. to set up a complimentary consultation. You can speak with an attorney at our St. Paul, MN office by calling 651-222-6603 or checking us out online. Our DWI attorneys in MN can tell you more about strategies to fight drunk driving charges after reviewing the details of your case.