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Minnesota DWI and drunk driving laws
 

DWI Laws in Minnesota
Drunk Driving, Minnesota OWI, DWI, DUI


Index

First Degree DWI
Second Degree DWI
Third Degree DWI
Fourth Degree DWI

Mandatory Sentences
Vehicle Forfeitures

Driver's License Revocation
Reinstating Driving Privileges


The terms DWI and DUI are synonymous and generally refer to the same offense. It is important to remember that a DWI offense is really two cases in one. There is a criminal case where the accused party faces jail time and fines. There is also a civil case which results in a license revocation or cancellation. This civil revocation is also referred to as an Implied Consent violation under the State's Implied Consent laws. Civil actions may also have additional potential penalties including plate impoundments, and even vehicle forfeitures for repeat offenders. Each part, the civil and criminal cases, have different prosecutors and different court procedures, although the defenses are often very similar. This means that even if you prevail on the criminal part of the case, your driving record may reflect that you have a alcohol related offense that will affect your insurance and/or become an aggravating factor should you have a similar charge in the future. The DWI laws are constantly changing. Each new year brings new legislation and increasingly harsh consequences for DWI offenses. In order to explain why this is significant, a brief overview of the legislature’s recent history may be in order.

In 2001, the legislature recodified the State’s DWI/DUI laws to create "degrees" of the offense and took the initiative to carve out new mandatory sentencing guidelines. In 2001, three degrees were crafted which took into consideration "aggravating factors" for charging purposes. (Aggravating factors include a prior impaired driving offense, a prior impaired driving offense with a child under the age of 16 in the car, a license revocation due to an impaired driving offense, and a blood alcohol concentration of 0.20 or greater.) The legislature also extended the "look back" period for enhancement purposes from five years to ten years. In other words, the 2001 amendments allowed prosecutors to increase the degree of the offense (and potential jail time and fines) if the person charged has a prior violation within the past ten years instead of five years.

In 2002, the State legislature again amended the law. On August 1, 2002, the DWI laws were amended to add an additional degree creating a felony offense where four or more aggravating conditions exist. That means a person with fourth DWI or DUI offenses or a person with other aggravating factors adding up to four or more, could be charged with a felony offense.

In 2004, the laws were again amended. Based on pressure from the federal government to withhold federal highway funding to states that did not enact a lower Blood alcohol threshold, Governor Tim Pawlenty signed a bill into law decreasing the legal per se level for impaired driving to 0.08 on May 27, 2004.

In 2011, the Legislature enacted new new laws that: (1) allow B card, no alcohol restrictions to be removed from a driver's license if there are no violations over a 10 year period; (2) allow alcohol interlock devices to shorten license revocation cancellation time periods; (3) enacted criminal laws related to alcohol interlock devices including criminalizing the use of vehicles not equipped with an interlock device by a person under the program, and criminalizing conduct allowing persons under the interlock program to drive non-equipped vehicles. Additionally, blood alcohol threshholds as an aggravating factor in DWI cases was reduced from .20 to .16.

The law limits record-keeping for a first offense with a BAC level of 0.08 or more but less than 0.10, if no additional offenses occur, to be purged after a 10 year time period. It also requires collection of certain alcohol-related traffic stop and test results by every law enforcement agency, as well as a summary report to the legislature by the Department of Public Safety.

The degrees of offenses are as follows:

  • First DWI or Implied Consent license revocation in past ten years: Misdemeanor Fourth Degree DWI

· Second DWI offense or Implied Consent license revocation in past ten years: Gross Misdemeanor Third Degree DWI

· Third DWI offense or Implied Consent license revocation in past ten years: Gross Misdemeanor Second Degree DWI

· Fourth or more DWI or Implied Consent license revocation in past ten years: Felony First Degree DW

First Degree DWI - §169A.24

A first degree DWI is charged if there are three or more aggravating factors. Aggravating factors may include:

  • A 1st Degree DWI is charged when there are three or more qualified DWI incidents or a previous felony convictions within a 10 year period;
  • A first degree offense is a felony punishable by up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine. The state will also impound the license plates of the driver and may also seek a forfeiture of the driver's vehicle. That means the State would retain the vehicle without compensation to the owner. Moreover, the statute requires law enforcement to hold the DWI suspect in jail until the first court appearance if:
    • The new DWI violation occurs within 10 years of 3 or more prior impaired driving convictions; or
    • The new DWI violation is the 2nd offense and the defendant is under 19 years of age;
    • The new violation occurs with a Blood Alcohol concentration of .16 or more at the time or within 2 hours of the driving conduct;
    • The New DWI occurs and the driver's license has been cancelled as inimical to public safety.

Second Degree DWI - §169A.25

A second degree DWI is charged if there are two aggravating factor. Aggravating factors may include:

  • A prior impaired driving incident within a 10 year period (this includes DWI license revocations or DWI convictions);
  • Blood Alcohol Content is more than two times the legal limit (.20);
  • Child Endangerment exists (child in the vehicle at the time of offense);

    A second degree offense is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $3,000 fine. . The state may also impound the license plates of the driver and seek to forfeit the vehicle that was being driven . Again, the statute requires law enforcement to hold the DWI suspect in jail until the first court appearance if:

    • The new DWI violation occurs within 10 years of 2 or more prior impaired driving convictions; or
    • The new DWI violation is the 2nd offense and the defendant is under 19 years of age;
    • The new violation occurs with a Blood Alcohol concentration of .16 or more at the time or within 2 hours of the driving conduct;
    • The New DWI occurs and the driver's license has been cancelled as inimical to public safety.

Third Degree DWI - §169A.26

A third degree DWI is charged if there is one aggravating factors or if the driver refused to take the breath, blood or urine test and it is a first offense

A third degree offense is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $3,000 fine. The state may also impound the license plates of the driver and seek to forfeit the vehicle that was being driven . Again, the statute requires law enforcement to hold the DWI suspect in jail until the first court appearance if:

  • The new DWI violation occurs within 10 years of 2 or more prior impaired driving convictions; or
  • The new DWI violation is the 2nd offense and the defendant is under 19 years of age;
  • The new violation occurs with a Blood Alcohol concentration of .16 or more at the time or within 2 hours of the driving conduct;
  • The New DWI occurs and the driver's license has been cancelled as inimical to public safety.

Fourth Degree DWI - §169A.27

A fourth degree DWI is charged if there are no aggravating factors. That means no prior DWI or DWI related license revocations. Additionally the driver cannot have a blood alcohol concentration in excess of twice the legal limit (.20) or have refused to take a test to determine that blood alcohol content.

A fourth degree offense is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Mandatory Sentences § 169A.275

The DWI statute also includes mandatory sentences for repeat offenders. The following statute allows judges to disregard mandatory minimum sentences and order no or less jail time for DWI offenders who use the ignition interlock device. Minn. Stat. §169A.275, Subd. (7): A judge is not required to sentence a person [to the mandatory minimums for a DWI offense under 169A.275, Subd. (1) - (4)] if the judge requires the person as a condition of probation to drive only motor vehicles equipped with an ignition interlock device meeting the standards described in section 171.306.

2nd DWI -----------30 days executed jail sentence with a minimum of 48 hour consecutive
3rd DWI------------ 90 days executed jail sentence with a minimum of 30 days consecutive
4th DWI-----------180 days executed jail sentence with a minimum of 30 days consecutive
5th DWI-----------365 days executed jail sentence with a minimum of 60 days consecutive
* If you are on probation for a related offense, sentencing is consecutive rather than concurrent.

Vehicle Forfeitures

The State may seek to retain the vehicle of a driver convicted of a DWI if:

  • The new DWI violation occurs within 10 years of 2 or more prior impaired driving convictions; or
  • The new DWI violation is the 2nd offense in 10 years and the driver's blood alcohol concentration was greater than .16;
  • The new violation occurs with a Blood Alcohol concentration of .16 or more and there is child endangerment (child in the vehicle at the time of offense);
  • The new DWI violation is the 2nd offense and there is child endangerment (child in the vehicle at the time of offense);
  • The New DWI occurs and the driver's license has been cancelled as inimical to public safety.

This is called a forfeiture action. In a forfeiture the state may retain the vehicle so long as any security interests against the vehicle are satisfied. No payment is made to the owner. In order to forfeit a vehicle the State must be able to demonstrate that the drunk driver is the registered owner of the vehicle or that the owner of the vehicle knew or should have known that the driver intended to use the vehicle unlawfully (while intoxicated or without a valid driver's license).

License Suspensions/Revocations

As previously stated, a DWI may have civil penalties in addition to the criminal penalties. Civil penalties included license revocations. Minnesota Statutes empower the Commissioner of Public Safety to revoke the person's license or permit to drive, or nonresident operating privilege as follows:

  • For a period of 30 to 90 days for a first offense with a blood alcohol concentration less than .16;
  • For six months if the driver is under the age of 21 years;
  • For 180 days if the driver has had a qualified prior impaired driving incident within the previous ten years;
  • For 180 days for a first offense with a blood alcohol concentration .16 or greater
  • For 360 days if the driver has had a qualified prior impaired driving incident within the previous ten years and the blood alcohol concentration of the current offense is .16 or greater.

When a nonresident's privilege to operate a motor vehicle in this state has been revoked or denied, the commissioner reports the Minnesota license revocation to that driver's home state which usually results in the revocation of driving privileges in the home state as well.

Reinstating Driving Privileges

To reinstate your driving privileges, you will have to jump through a number of administrative hoops. You will be required to pay additional fees on top of any fines you may have received in the criminal case. To reinstate your driving privileges you must:

  • Written Test. You must pass a written test that has specific DWI related questions. The Minnesota DWI test is based on Chapter 4 of the Minnesota Driver's Manual. You should obtain a copy of this manual for review before taking the test. To find a driver's license written test site near you, Click Here.
  • Reinstatement Fee. There is a reinstatement fee of $680.00 as of August 1, 2005. This fee is periodically increased.
  • Application. You must also fill out an application to reinstate your license and pay another $18.50 as a reapplication fee.
In addition to the requirements above, persons with multiple DWI offenses may be required to comply with additional conditions including attendance at a DWI seminar, providing documentation of AA attendance, completing treatment and after care programs, and remaining abstinent from alcohol for more than a year.

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