Minnesota's Impaired Driving Laws, Penalties, and Fines

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

According to the State of Minnesota, in 2015, over 25,000 drivers were arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI). The consequences of a DWI are considerable. This article gives an overview of the penalties and costs associated with a DWI. For more detailed information, read our more specific Minnesota DWI articles:

What Is a DWI?

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).

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.

What Are the Penalties for a DWI?

Upon 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:

  • a record of prior DWI offenses in the past ten years
  • a BAC of .16% or more, or
  • the presence of a child who's under the age of 16 in the vehicle.

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. Administrative penalties can include:

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

Criminal Penalties

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

What Are the 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:

  • apply for a limited license to drive to work, school, or treatment (this option is only available in certain cases), or
  • pay for installation of an ignition interlock device (IID), as well as any continuing servicing, monitoring, and insurance costs.

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

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.

What Should a Person Do If Arrested for DWI?

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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