As an experienced Minnesota Criminal Lawyer that has represented driver’s charged with Minnesota DUI related charges for over the last 15 years, I have been asked hundreds of questions over the years relating to MN DWI Laws or MN DUI Laws by clients, prospective clients, other lawyers, and simply curious people from many other professions. With the invention of our new blog, I thought it would be useful to answer, in a several part series, the most common questions I’ve been asked about Minnesota DWI Laws.
Two of the most common questions I receive are:
1. What are the different degrees of Minnesota DWI offenses; and
2. What are the differences between the various degrees of DWI offenses.
First, in Minnesota, we have four different degrees of DWI offenses:
1. First Degree DWI (Felony)
2. Second Degree DWI (Gross Misdemeanor)
3. Third Degree DWI (Gross Misdemeanor)
4. Fourth Degree DWI (Misdemeanor)
There are many differences with regard to each of these offenses, including, but not limited to, mandatory minimum jail sentences, mandatory bail and conditions of release, and the greater potential civil consequences with certain degrees (i.e. vehicle forfeitures, license plate impoundment ). I’ll will address these other issues in the later parts to our Minnesota DWI Law series, but for now, I want to focus on how a driver can go from a Fourth Degree DWI (misdemeanor) to a First Degree DWI (felony). The key is the presence of what is defined by Minnesota DWI Law as “aggravating factors”.
These “aggravating factors” include:
1. a qualified prior impaired driving incident within the ten years immediately preceding the current offense;
2. 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
3. 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.
It’s the presence of any of the above factors that would cause a Minnesota Driver to go from a Misdemeanor Fourth Degree DWI, to a more serious DWI offense. The more “aggravating factors” that are present, the more serious is the Minnesota DUI offense.
It should be noted that Refusal to submit to chemical testing of the person’s blood, breath, or urine, although not defined as an “aggravating factor”, functions in the same manner. For example, a first time Minnesota DWI, in which the driver refused chemical testing , would be charged as a Third Degree Refusal/DWI (Gross Misdemeanor). If this same driver had a prior DWI within ten years, or a child under the age of 16 in the motor vehicle at the time, he or she could be charged as a Second Degree Refusal/DWI (Gross Misdemeanor).
Lastly, unless a person has a prior Felony DWI conviction or Felony Criminal vehicular homicide and injury conviction, for a Minnesota driver to be charged with Felony First Degree DWI in Minnesota, he or she must either have three prior convictions for DWI, or three prior DWI related alcohol license revocations within the ten years of the new DWI charge.