Third-Offense DWI in Minnesota

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

By , Attorney

Driving while impaired (DWI), sometimes called "DUI," results in criminal and administrative penalties. The severity of these penalties increases for repeat DWI offenses. This article discusses some of the consequences of a third DWI. A DWI counts as a third offense if the motorist has two prior DWIs that occurred within the past ten years. (The penalties for a first and second DWI are different.)

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 a "test refusal" crime.

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 third DWI in ten years, administrative penalties include:

  • driver's license cancelation for three years
  • plate impoundment, and
  • possible vehicle forfeiture.

License cancelation. When an offender's driver's license is canceled (versus revoked for first and second offenses), the offender must participate in the ignition interlock program. Participation in the program is required not only to drive during the cancelation period, but also to reinstate driving privileges once the cancelation period is done.

Plate impoundment. 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."

Forfeiture. At the time of arrest for a third DWI, the police officer may seize the offender's vehicle. Generally, a prosecutor has 60 days to send the offender notice of intent to forfeit the vehicle. If the offender doesn't challenge or succeed in challenging the forfeiture, the arresting agency may keep the vehicle for its own use or sell the vehicle and keep the proceeds.

Criminal Penalties

"Criminal penalties" are imposed by a criminal court following a DWI conviction. A third DWI in ten years is a gross misdemeanor. The maximum penalties are one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. At a minimum, the judge must impose a 90-day sentence. The judge specifies whether this sentence is to be served in jail, under intensive supervision, or a combination of the two. The offender must also submit to a chemical dependency assessment and complete any recommended treatment.

Upon arrest for a third DWI, the offender must stay in jail until the first court appearance. Unless maximum bail is imposed ($12,000), the offender may be released from jail only upon agreeing to abstain from alcohol and submit to electronic alcohol monitoring.

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
  • treatment costs, and
  • in some cases, 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),
  • plate impoundment fees, and
  • the costs of an ignition interlock device for at least three years.

Getting Legal Help

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.

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