Law enforcement and prosecutors have been cracking down on drunk driving in Minnesota for decades, and recent statistics reveal that they’re unwavering in their efforts.

The state Department of Public Safety reports there were 24,862 arrests for Driving While Under the Influence of alcohol or drugs (DWI) in 2017, or almost 70 drunk driving arrests every day.

For these drivers, the implications of a conviction go beyond fines, jail time, and probation.

The Difference Between DWI and DUI

DUI is an acronym for Driving Under the Influence, while DWI is the acronym for Driving While Intoxicated or Impaired. I

n Minnesota, DWI and DUI are terms that can be used interchangeably. Our state prosecutors can charge you with driving while impaired or driving under the influence under either alcohol or drugs. 

A DWI can have serious consequences for your driver’s license, potentially affecting your job and personal life.

Enhanced DWI charges can even result in the forfeiture of your vehicle.

If you’re facing charges, it’s essential to work with a St. Paul, Minnesota DWI lawyer who will protect your interests.

Our lawyers at Arechigo & Stokka, P.A. are dedicated to fighting on behalf of clients in a wide range of criminal matters, including drunk driving cases.

We have knowledge of the strategies that enable you to obtain a favorable outcome, so you can trust our team to explore all of your legal options.

To learn more about how we can assist, please contact or call our St. Paul, MN office at (651) 222-6603 to schedule a free consultation with a St Paul, Minnesota DWI attorney.

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 from a St. Paul, MN DWI lawyer may be helpful.

Basis of a Drunk Driving Arrest in Minnesota

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 tests, 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 administered 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 Minnesota driving privileges.

The second proceeding is a criminal case since drunk driving is against the law.

If convicted of a St. Paul DWI, you face criminal penalties described below.

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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  St. Paul, 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 depends 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.

Collateral Consequences

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.

Defenses to DUI

Minnesota law makes it difficult to challenge a DUI charge with provisions such as implied consent and merely needing to be in physical control of the car as opposed to actually driving it.

However, it is not impossible, and there are defenses to this crime. An experienced Minnesota DUI lawyer can help you formulate a strong defense!

Let’s discuss three common defenses to a DUI offense. 

No Reasonable Suspicion

Did the officer have reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle in the first place? Challenging the initial motor vehicle stop is one of the best ways to get your DUI charge dismissed.

While this might not apply in every situation, it is certainly something an experienced DUI attorney will look at closely. If the court finds the police did not have reasonable suspicion to stop you, then any evidence stemming from the stop will be suppressed.

With no evidence against you, the prosecutor could be forced to dismiss your case.

No Probable Cause

Establishing reasonable suspicion is a lower bar than finding probable cause. And while police only need reasonable suspicion of a crime to pull you over, they must have probable cause to arrest you.

Therefore, you might be able to challenge whether the police had probable cause to arrest you. Typically, in DUI cases, the police will use their own observations and a breath test to establish probable cause that you are intoxicated.

So one way to challenge probable cause is to challenge the breath test.

Challenge the Breathalyzer

Evidence and supporting case law show that these machines are not always reliable. It may be possible to challenge the breathalyzer’s accuracy, reliability, and measurements.

Perhaps the police administered the test incorrectly. Or perhaps the machine was not well calibrated or maintained. There are a few different ways to challenge your breathalyzer results, and a successful challenge might get your case dismissed.

Your best chance of successfully defending a DUI charge is to hire a reputable and skilled DUI attorney. At Arechigo & Stokka, we have you covered! Contact us today to get started. 

Contact a St. Paul, 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 contacting us online.

FAQ

Should I Hire an Attorney Even for a First Offense?

Yes, you should hire a knowledgeable DUI lawyer in Minnesota, even if it is your first offense.

DUIs are prosecuted harshly, and even a first conviction carries steep penalties. The best chance of reducing those penalties is to retain a Minnesota DUI lawyer.

Can a DUI be a Felony in Minnesota?

Depending on the circumstances, a DUI can be a felony charge. In Minnesota, a first-degree DUI is considered a felony.

You could be charged with a first-degree DUI if you have three or more prior DUIs within the past 10 years.

Will I Be Able to Obtain a Restricted License to Drive to Work?

Whether or not you are eligible for a restricted or limited license allowing you to drive under certain circumstances (e.g., to and from work) depends on several factors.

These factors include your BAC level at the time of the arrest and your prior criminal record. Our experienced Minnesota DUI lawyer will help determine if you may be eligible for a limited license.

Our DWI attorneys in St. Paul, MN can tell you more about strategies to fight drunk driving charges after reviewing the details of your case.