What Is a Qualified Prior Impaired Driving Incident?

Tower Over The ProsecutionIn the state of Minnesota, a qualified prior impaired driving incident is simply a previous impaired driving conviction or loss. Prior impaired driving losses usually mean an individual had lost the privilege of operating a motor vehicle because of other kinds of impaired driving related incidents, and they happened within the past ten years. It could also mean the person had lost his driver’s license because of implied consent revocation.

Prior impaired driving incidents can include any kind of alcohol related license disqualification, cancellation, and revocation – even when there is no existing occurrence of license loss related to criminal conviction. As such, there are numerous situations under Minnesota law that could qualify as a prior impaired driving incident. Some examples include the operation of a motor vehicle, motorboat, off-road recreational vehicle, all-terrain vehicle, commercial motor vehicle, snowmobile, or aircraft while impaired. Qualified prior impaired driving incidents also include all criminal convictions related to vehicular operations while under the influence of alcohol or any other controlled substance. It does not matter whether the convictions actually occurred within Minnesota borders or in another state.

Minnesota DWI laws consider any qualified prior impaired driving incident that has taken place within the past ten years to be an aggravating factor. This means that if an individual has one of these on his record, the punishment for the current offense could turn out to be more severe due to its existence. Without that prior impaired driving incident, the penalties likely would not be as harsh.

When a person faces charges for a more serious offense because of one or more prior offenses, it is called “enhancing” a conviction. Previous implied consent revocations can also be considered a prior conviction. This means the current charge could be enhanced if the individual has previously been arrested for a DWI that was ultimately reduced to a charge including revocation as a result of implied consent.

As an example, suppose a woman was previously arrested for a DWI charge. Ultimately the DWI was lessened to a careless driving charge, and part of the penalty included license revocation. That charge is considered a qualified prior impaired driving incident and is treated as if it were actually charged as a DWI.

A person could also face a felony DWI when certain factors exist, such as:

  • He/she has already been convicted of a felony DWI under Minnesota law
  • He/she has a previous criminal vehicular operation or vehicular homicide conviction
  • He/she has had three qualified prior impaired driving incidents within the past ten years

This may make it sound as if any prior impaired driving incident can be used against a person in court. However, there is some good news. It is certainly possible to keep those previous charges from becoming aggravating factors in a present case. An attorney may be able to prove that a prior revocation or conviction was received in an unconstitutional manner. When this happens, the state first has to be able to offer a valid waiver of right to counsel to the court in order to consider that previous offense. This is not easily done if the defendant had legal representation during that time. If the right to counsel was waived in the previous case, the prosecutor might be unable to find the waiver.

If you find yourself in a position where a qualified prior impaired driving incident could be considered against you in a current case, it is important to contact an attorney who will challenge the use of the earlier revocation or conviction. Please consider reaching out to our law offices to schedule an initial consultation.