First Offense DWI in Minnesota

Read about the consequences of a first-offense DWI in Minnesota.

According to the State of Minnesota, in 2015, over 25,000 drivers were arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI). Approximately 60% of these arrests were first-time offenders. This article discusses some of the consequences for a first DWI. A DWI counts as a first offense if the motorist has no DWIs that occurred within the past ten years. (Also, read about the penalties for a second and third DWI in Minnesota.) 

A DWI, sometimes called “DUI,” results in criminal and administrative penalties. Minnesota defines DWI as driving, operating, or being in physical control of a motor vehicle while:

  • under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • knowingly under the influence of a hazardous substance that affects the body and substantially impairs driving abilities
  • having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater  (a “per se” DWI), or
  • having any amount of a Schedule I or II drug, except marijuana, in the body (also a per se DWI).

Upon a lawful arrest for DWI, Minnesota law also makes it a crime to refuse to take a breath alcohol test. This offense is referred to as an implied consent or test refusal crime.

(Minn. Stat. Ann. §§ 169A.20, 169A.51 (2016); Johnson v. Comm'r of Pub. Safety, 887 N.W.2d 281 (2016).)

Administrative Penalties

“Administrative penalties”—which are administered by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety—are meant to provide a swift consequence. These penalties can be imposed upon or soon after a DWI arrest and may apply even if the offender is never criminally convicted of a DWI.

For a first DWI, an offender’s driver’s license is revoked for up to 90 days. If the DWI involved chemical test refusal or a BAC of .16% or more, the revocation period is increased to one year. Another administrative penalty called “plate impoundment” applies to a first offense DWI when the offender’s BAC was .16% or more or a passenger younger than 16 was in the vehicle.

Plate impoundment refers to the removal and surrender of a vehicle’s license plates. The plate impoundment order applies to all vehicles registered in the offender’s name, whether alone or jointly.  To drive those vehicle(s) again, the offender must apply for special registration plates—more commonly known as “whiskey plates.”

Under certain circumstances, a first-offense DWI may also result in vehicle forfeiture.

(Minn. Stat. Ann.  §§ 169A.52, 169A.54, 169A.60, 169A.63 (2016).)

Criminal Penalties                                                                           

“Criminal penalties” are imposed by a criminal court following a DWI conviction. A first DWI in ten years is a misdemeanor. The maximum penalty is 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. The penalty is increased to a gross misdemeanor, if any of the following apply:

  • the offense involved test refusal
  • the offender’s BAC was .16% or over, or
  • a passenger younger than 16 was in the vehicle.

The maximum penalty for a gross misdemeanor is one year in jail and a $3,000 fine.

A first-time DWI offender must also submit to a chemical dependency assessment.

(Minn. Stat. Ann. §§ 169A.26, 169A.27, 169A.284, 169A.70 (2016).)

Costs Associated with a DWI

The costs of criminal and administrative penalties are considerable, and include:

  • criminal fines and surcharges
  • chemical dependency assessment fees and surcharges, and
  • in some cases, treatment costs, bail, and penalty assessments.

To regain driving privileges, the offender must pay:

  • a driver’s license examination fee
  • DWI reinstatement fee and surcharge (totaling $680), and
  • if applicable, plate impoundment fees.

If the offender wants to drive during the license revocation period, the offender must:

  • pay for installation of an ignition interlock device (IID), as well as any continuing servicing, monitoring, and insurance costs, or
  • after 15 days of no driving, apply for a limited license to drive to work, school, or treatment (a limited license is not available to offenders with a BAC of .16% or more).

(Minn. Stat. Ann. §§ 169A.26, 169A.27, 169A.284, 169A.44, 169A.60, 171.29, 171.30, 171.306, 357.021 (2016).)

HOW MUCH TIME WOULD YOU ACTUALLY SPEND IN JAIL?

Sentencing law is complex. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including credits for good in-custody behavior and jail-alternative work programs.

If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.

Getting Legal Help

Minnesota DWI law is complex, and facts of every case are different. If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence, talk to an experienced DWI attorney in your area. A qualified DWI lawyer can tell you how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on the best course of action.

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