An arrest for DWI should never be taken lightly. A conviction can result in a license suspension or revocation, a blemished criminal record, job loss, or even family strife. Therefore, the accused should understand his or her case before accepting any plea offer. Below are the top things you need to know about your Minnesota DWI case.
Not all charges are the same.
Minnesota has both felony and misdemeanor charges for DWIs. Felonies are much more serious than misdemeanor charges and may result in prison time. Typically, the accused will face misdemeanor charges unless he or she has several prior DWI convictions. However, the misdemeanor DWI charges increase in severity depending on prior convictions and other aggravating factors.
The legal limit is not the same for everyone.
Typically, the legal alcohol consumption (AC) limit in Minnesota for an adult is .08. However, for those under 21 years old, that limit drops to .04. Additionally, if the accused is operating a commercial motor vehicle, the limit is also .04. Moreover, for any driver, the resulting penalty for an AC of .16 or more increases significantly. Minnesota also a zero tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving, which provides misdemeanor penalties for anyone under the age of 21 years old where there is evidence of driving a motor vehicle while consuming alcohol. The zero tolerance policy also applies to school bus operators and it is illegal to fly an aircraft within eight hours of consuming any alcohol.
The AC examination should be measured within two hours of operating a motor vehicle, and does not have to be performed immediately after seen driving. Having any measure of a substance or its metabolites controlled as schedule I or II, other than marijuana, can result in a DWI charge as well.
Your circumstances impact your case.
- Prior convictions. As mentioned previously, prior convictions can impact the DWI charges that you face. Convictions stay on your record for at least ten years. Though the offender may have a DWI misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor expunged from his or her records under certain circumstances, DWI convictions must be permanently maintained on the official driving record and for future sentencing decisions.
- Whether a child is present. If a child under the age of 16 is present in the car and the driver is more than three years older than the child, then that circumstance serves as an aggravating factor to increase the charge.
- Whether someone was injured or killed. There are six levels of criminal vehicular operation, or CVO, and all but one level results in a felony charge. Bodily harm results in a gross misdemeanor. The felony levels include criminal vehicular homicide (where death results but not constituting murder or manslaughter), great bodily harm (or serious permanent injury), substantial bodily harm (or temporary substantial injury), or death or injury to an unborn child.
DWI convictions result in both criminal and civil penalties.
The Minnesota House of Representatives issued “An Overview of Minnesota’s DWI Laws,” outlining the various criminal and civil sanctions or penalties associated with a DWI conviction. The administrative sanctions are immediate consequences such as suspension of a driver’s license, vehicle forfeiture, and plate impoundment. Criminally, those convicted of a DWI may face either jail or prison time (with mandatory minimum sentences included), fines, probation and monitoring, and chemical dependency treatment.
You can get help.
DWI charges carry serious consequences. Not all attorneys have the experience necessary to understand those consequences and how to mitigate detrimental evidence. If you or someone you know has been arrested for a DWI in Minnesota and needs help from an experienced attorney, please contact us for a case evaluation.