Minnesota Aggravated DUI/DWI

Learn about aggravating factors when charged with a DWI in Minnesota.

In Minnesota, as in all states, it’s a crime to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher. If arrested and convicted for this crime, judges typically apply a set of minimum and maximum sentencing guidelines. When determining the sentence, judges and prosecutors commonly weigh mitigating and aggravating factors.

What are mitigating factors?

Mitigating factors reduce the punishment because they may explain or excuse the bad behavior. For example, if impairment was the result of a lawfully prescribed medication, or the driver had an otherwise spotless Minnesota driving record and the driver’s .BAC just barely cracked .08, or the driver has voluntarily completed a substance abuse program, courts and prosecutors may be more inclined to apply a minimum rather than a maximum sentence.

What are typical aggravating factors?

On the other hand, if there are aggravating factors present, prosecutors and courts are less likely to provide a lenient sentence. This may be for two reasons: public pressure in higher-profile DUI/DWI arrests and state laws requiring stiffer sentences. DUI/DWIs are a hot button issue for elected (and appointed officials) and the days when a judge or prosecutor could sweep a terrible DUI/DWI accident off the record have faded away in most jurisdictions. At the same time, recognizing that not all DUI/DWIs are the same, lobbying groups such as M.A.D.D. have applied to state legislatures to build aggravating factors into the law. Typically aggravating factors include prior DUI/DWI convictions, reckless driving or speeding, driving while a license is suspended, causing serious personal injury to another person, or a DUI/DWI arrest with a child present (ages defining a child vary from state to state)

Minnesota’s approach

Minnesota law (§ 169A.03) defines the aggravating factors in a DUI/DWI as follows:

  • a qualified prior impaired driving incident within the ten years immediately preceding the current offense;
  • having an alcohol concentration of 0.20 or more as measured at the time, or within two hours of the time, of the offense; or
  • having a child under the age of 16 in the motor vehicle at the time of the offense if the child is more than 36 months younger than the offender.

Seek an attorney’s advice

Although many DUI/DWIs can be handled without the assistance of an attorney, an attorney’s counsel is strongly recommended if arrested for a DUI/DWI with aggravating factors (such as an elevated BAC). That’s because when aggravating factors are present, the penalties are so much more severe and the effects can stay with you for much longer than a typical Minnesota DUI/DWI.

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