Minnesota's DWI Laws and Violation Penalties

Learn about the penalties for a DUI/DWI conviction in Minnesota.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law

In Minnesota, the penalties you'll face for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol depend mainly on how many prior convictions you have. In this article, we cover how Minnesota defines the offense and the penalties you'll face for a conviction.

Minnesota's DWI Law

In Minnesota, a DWI, sometimes called "DUI," is defined 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).

Following being lawfully arrested 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 a test refusal crime.

What Are the Penalties for a DWI in Minnesota?

After being charged with a DWI, a person faces two types of penalties—administrative and criminal. The severity of these penalties increases when "aggravating factors" are involved.

Aggravating factors include:

Generally, the penalties increase in severity with the number of aggravating factors.

Administrative (License- and Vehicle-Related) Penalties for Minnesota DWIs

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.

Administrative penalties can include:

  • driver's license revocation or cancelation
  • plate impoundment, and
  • vehicle forfeiture.

However, a driver might not face all of these consequences for a DWI offense.

"Whiskey Plates" for DWI Convictions

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."

Jail Time and Fines for DWI Convictions in Minnesota

Criminal penalties are imposed by the court following a DWI conviction. There are four "degrees" (or levels) of DWI penalties, with fourth-degree being the least and first-degree being the most serious. Similar to administrative penalties, the severity of criminal penalties increases when aggravating factors are involved.

Here are some of the possible penalties for the different levels of DWI offenses.





Offense Level


Gross misdemeanor

Gross misdemeanor




90 days in jail

$1,000 fine

1 year in jail

$3,000 fine

1 year in jail

$3,000 fine

7 years in prison

$14,000 fine

How to Get a Limited License Following a Minnesota DWI Revocation?

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

However, limited licenses aren't available to all offenders.

How Long Does a DWI Stay on a Person's Record in Minnesota?

DWI records are retained by the courts, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and Drivers and Vehicle Services (DVS).

By meeting certain conditions, a person can apply to have a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor DWI sentence "expunged." An expunged record is sealed and cannot be viewed by the public. However, the record is still available to be used by the courts in future sentencing decisions and by DVS for the official (and permanent) driving record.

Keep in mind that a DWI from another state can count as a prior DWI for purposes of increasing administrative and criminal penalties. Minnesota also shares DWI records with other states.

When Is a DWI a Felony in Minnesota?

A DWI becomes a felony-level offense if the motorist has:

  • three prior DWIs that occurred within the past ten years
  • a prior felony DWI, or
  • a prior felony vehicular homicide or vehicular injury conviction that involved alcohol or drugs.

Felony DWIs carry the possibility of three to seven years in state prison. A felony offender is also looking at up to $14,000 in fines.

What Are Minnesota's Underage DUI Laws and Penalties?

Minnesota makes it a crime for a person under the legal drinking age to drive a vehicle while having any amount of alcohol in the body. This law is commonly referred to as the "Not-a-Drop" law. It represents a zero-tolerance policy on underage drinking and driving.

It's a misdemeanor for anyone under 21 to operate a vehicle while having any amount of alcohol in the body. A misdemeanor carries a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a maximum $1,000 fine. If the offender is under 18, the offense is prosecuted in juvenile rather than adult court.

A first-time offender's license is suspended for 30 days. The license suspension increases to 180 days for a second offense. For unlicensed offenders, the violation places future restrictions on the offender's ability to get an instruction permit, provisional license, or driver's license.

What Should a Person Do If Arrested for DWI in Minnesota?

Minnesota DWI law is complex, and the 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.

Talk to a DUI Defense attorney
We've helped 115 clients find attorneys today.
There was a problem with the submission. Please refresh the page and try again
Full Name is required
Email is required
Please enter a valid Email
Phone Number is required
Please enter a valid Phone Number
Zip Code is required
Please add a valid Zip Code
Please enter a valid Case Description
Description is required

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you