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Location:
1000 Twelve Oaks Center Drive
Suite 100
Wayzata, MN 55391

Direct: (612) 598-2234
Office: (952) 541-0600
Fax: (952) 475-0405
Email: bill@kueffnerlaw.com

Kueffner Law serves Minneapolis & St. Paul area cities including: Apple Valley, Bloomington, Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, Burnsville, Coon Rapids, Eagan, Eden Prairie, Edina, Maplewood, Maple Grove, Minnetonka, Plymouth, St Louis Park, Wayzata, and Woodbury.

Criminal Law Summary

DWI Causes at Least Two Separate Legal Proceedings to Begin...

It is important to understand that an arrest for D.W.I. causes at least two separate legal proceedings to begin. At a minimum there will be a proceeding in criminal court to deal with the alleged criminal offenses involved, and a separate administrative legal proceeding to revoke the person’s driver’s license. Under certain circumstances there may also be proceedings to impound the license plates from the person’s vehicle and possibly even to seize and forfeit the vehicle itself. All of these consequences can arise out of the same set of circumstances. Legally, however, they are treated as separate matters. In order to understand the overall situation as completely as possible, try to keep the various legal proceedings separate in your thinking. The criminal law issues and consequences will be discussed in this section, and the other proceedings will be covered in following pages.

Minnesota Statute Section 169A.20 states that it is a crime for any person to drive, operate or be in physical control of any motor vehicle when:

(a) the person is under the influence of alcohol;
(b) the person is under the influence of a controlled substance;
(c) the person is under the influence of a combination of alcohol and drugs;
(d) the person’s alcohol concentration is 0.08% or more.

Under the current interpretation of this law, the term "any motor vehicle" includes every vehicle which is self-propelled. This includes cars, trucks, motorboats, motorcycles, snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, riding lawn mowers and even golf carts.

A separate subdivision of the statute also makes it a crime to refuse to submit a chemical test of the person’s blood, breath or urine.


First Offense

Under most circumstances, a first offense for driving while under the influence is a misdemeanor level offense. This means that the maximum possible punishment for the offense is up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to a $1,000.00.


Gross Misdemeanor

There are, however, certain circumstances which can make even a first offense into a gross misdemeanor. For instance, even in a first offense situation if the driver’s alcohol test is 0.20% or more, if there is a passenger in the vehicle who is under the age of 16 or the drinking driver causes an accident which injures someone, the case will be classified as a gross misdemeanor. This means the maximum possible punishment is up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $3,000.00.

Prior offenses can also cause a case to be treated as a gross misdemeanor. A second offense for driving while under the influence within ten years of a prior driving while under the influence offense, or within ten years of a prior alcohol-related license revocation is a gross misdemeanor.


Aggravating Factors

The severity level of a DWI criminal charge is determined by the number of “Aggravating Factors” involved in the case. Aggravating Factors are defined in Minnesota Statute §169A.03, subd. 3, and include the following:

1. A prior DWI conviction or alcohol-related driver’s license revocation within ten years of the current offense.

2. Having an alcohol concentration of 0.20% or more in the present offense.

3. Having a child under the age of sixteen in the vehicle at the time of the offense if the child is more than thirty-six months younger than the driver.


4th, 3rd and 2nd Degree DUI in MN

If the present offense involves no Aggravating Factors, it is classified as a 4th Degree DWI, which is a misdemeanor. If the current offense involves one Aggravating Factor, it is classified as a Third Degree DWI, which is a gross misdemeanor. If the current offense involves two or more Aggravating Factors, it is then classified as a Second Degree DWI, which is also a gross misdemeanor, unless it falls under the felony guidelines described below.


1st Degree DWI

A DWI charge will be classified as a felony if (in addition to the present charge) the driver has three or more prior DWI convictions or alcohol related driver’s license revocations within ten years of the current offense. This type of felony level DWI is known as a 1st Degree DWI. Also, if a driver has ever previously been convicted of a felony level DWI, any future DWI charges will also be charged as 1st Degree felony DWI.


Sentencing

If a person pleads guilty or is found guilty of a DWI, the final decision regarding sentencing is in the hands of the judge. The defense attorney and prosecutor can make suggestions regarding sentencing, but the judge is not necessarily required to follow them. Sentences vary dramatically from county to county and from judge to judge.

In misdemeanor cases there is no mandatory jail sentence, so the judge is free to impose a sentence which does not include jail time if he or she feels that is appropriate given the facts and circumstances of the case. In Hennepin County, for example, the sentence in a first offense misdemeanor DWI might include some community work service in lieu of any jail time. Some sentences include a week-end in jail, while others include neither jail nor community service. In addition to the possibility of jail time or community service, there will be a fine with surcharges and a requirement that the defendant complete an Alcohol Problem Assessment interview with a probation officer and follow any recommendations the probation officer makes regarding alcohol education. The sentence in a gross misdemeanor would also include a fine with surcharges, an Alcohol Problem Assessment interview and the requirement to complete any probation recommendations.

Sentencing in a gross misdemeanor includes mandatory minimum sentences under Minnesota Statute section 169A.275. Depending on the circumstances, the sentence can include as much as a year in jail. The law does leave open the possibility that the defendant does not have to serve all the time actually in custody. Mandatory minimum sentences are based on prior offenses, so they do not necessarily apply to a first offense which is a gross misdemeanor due to a high test result or a young child being in the car. Mandatory minimum sentences under current Minnesota Law are as follows:

a.) Second offense within 10 years, minimum 30 days jail time with at least 48 hours in custody before eligibility for electronic home monitoring.

b.) Third offense within 10 years, minimum 90 days jail time with the requirement of at least 30 days actually served in jail before eligibility for electronic home monitoring.

c.) Fourth offense within 10 years, minimum 180 days jail time with the requirement of at least 30 days actually served in jail before eligibility for electronic home monitoring, unless treated a felony level offense.

d.) Fifth offense within 15 years or sixth offense in lifetime, minimum 1 year of jail time with the requirement of at least 60 days actually served in jail before eligibility for electronic home monitoring, unless treated as a felony level offense.

e.) If the case is treated as a First Degree felony DWI, the mandatory minimum sentencing statute requires that the Defendant serve not less than three years in prison unless the Court stays execution of sentence. If the Court does not stay execution of sentence, the sentencing statutes also require that the sentence include the requirement that the Defendant complete chemical dependency treatment in prison, and, upon release from prison, a mandatory five year conditional release. If, however, the Court stays execution of sentence, then the regular mandatory minimums for non-felony DWI cases apply (see above).

Please read an in depth overview of MN DUI Laws HERE.


DWI POSSIBLE DEFENSES >