DWI Convictions in Minnesota: The Costs are Too High

DWI Convictions in Minnesota: The Costs are Too High

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is one of the most common criminal offenses in Minnesota. However, a DWI conviction will result in serious criminal, administrative, and financial consequences, and could even cost you your job.

Even for a first offense, a DWI conviction can be life-changing in many ways. Below we cover the many different costs of a DWI, highlighting why it’s so important to fight back and beat DWI charges.

Criminal DWI Penalties in Minnesota

The severity of criminal penalties for a DWI will depend on your blood alcohol content at the time of the arrest, and the presence of a number of different aggravating factors:

  • Blood alcohol concentration under 0.16%: misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
  • Blood alcohol under 0.16% with child passenger: gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine.
  • Blood alcohol over 0.16% with or without child passenger: gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine.

Additionally, if you refuse chemical blood alcohol testing after arrest, you will face an additional charge to your DWI. Refusing testing is a gross misdemeanor punishable by one year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine.

Minnesota’s Administrative DWI Penalties

Administrative DWI penalties are imposed by the Minnesota Department of Public safety, and begin immediately following a DWI arrest. These penalties are imposed to bring swift consequences for driving under the influence, and may be imposed even if you are never formally convicted of a DWI.

For a first DWI offense with no aggravating factors, your driver’s license will be revoked for up to 90 days. If aggravating factors such as blood alcohol over 0.16%, a child passenger, or refusal of chemical testing are present, your driver’s license will be revoked for up to one year. During this time, you may be able to apply for a restricted license, which requires installation of an ignition interlock device.

If aggravating factors were present, you may also face plate impoundment, in which you will be required to remove and surrender the license plates of all vehicles registered under your name. To drive any of your vehicles, you must apply for special registration plates, colloquially known as “whiskey plates.”

Financial Consequences of a Minnesota DWI

The financial cost of a DWI is enormous. Although the total cost will depend on the circumstances of the offense, you can expect a first-time DWI offense to cost roughly $10,000 –provided you did not hit anything or anyone.

DWI Convictions in Minnesota: The Costs are Too High

You can expect the following expenses for a DWI:

  • Vehicle towing after your arrest: $100-200 plus impound fees
  • Chemical use assessment: $150-250
  • Criminal traffic surcharge: $35
  • Criminal fines: $1,000-3,000
  • Probation costs: $150-250
  • Driver’s license reinstatement: $700-1,000
  • Ignition interlock program: $125/month
  • High-risk auto insurance: $2400+/year

You can also expect additional financial burdens such as lost wages while in court and/or jail, and potentially a longer-term loss of income if you are fired.

Fortunately, a DWI charge does not make conviction inevitable, contrary to what you may have been told. In order to convict you of a DWI, the arrest must have been conducted lawfully, and the prosecution must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving while impaired. An experienced Minnesota defense attorney will assess the circumstances of your case, verify that the traffic stop and arrest were lawful, and look for ways to poke holes in the prosecution’s case.


About the Author:

A former prosecutor and lifelong Minnesotan, Christian Peterson has handled hundreds of criminal cases from both sides of the aisle since he began practicing law in 2006, as well as a wide variety of family law matters. This background allows him to look at situations from all angles and anticipate which arguments the other side may use, increasing his clients’ chances of success. His work has been recognized by the American Society of Legal Advocates, the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys, and National Trial Lawyers, and he has a perfect 10/10 rating from Avvo.