When the court sentences an individual charged with a DWI offense, it has the choice whether to impose and execute a sentence of incarceration or otherwise stay imposition or execution of a sentence and order some intermediate sanctions with probation; or the court could place the individual on either supervised or unsupervised probation under specific terms ordered by the court, which would include any intermediate sanctions, if so ordered. The maximum period of a stayed sentence resulting from a misdemeanor DWI conviction is 2 years; it’s 6 years for a gross misdemeanor; and 7 years for a first-time felony DWI conviction.
With regard to sentencing aspects, a Felony can be classified as any crime in which a prison sentence of more than 1 year can be imposed on the defendant who is found guilty of their respective crime. The potential sentence for a Felony First-Degree DWI is a maximum fine of $14,000 and/or 7 years of prison, or longer, depending on whether the driver has a prior criminal history.
Unlike many first time Felony offenses that are non-violent or non-sex crimes, when a person is charged with a first-time Felony DWI, the sentencing court must impose a sentence of imprisonment for a minimum of 3 years and the court is only permitted by statute to stay execution of this mandatory sentence and not allow a stay of imposition of the sentence. This is an important distinction because a defendant receiving a stay of imposition as opposed to stay of execution, will have their convictions reduced from a felony, upon successful completion of all aspects of probation.
It’s also important to note that a person sentenced to prison for a Felony will not be granted early release unless he or she completes a chemical dependency program while in prison. In addition, after being released from prison, a Felony DWI defendant will receive a conditional release period of 5 years under specific conditions of release such as an intensive DWI probation program. Lastly, if the defendant fails to meet any and all of their conditions of release, the commissioner may revoke the order of release and return the person to prison.
As stated earlier, Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines recommends a stay of execution of 36 months when a defendant is convicted of a Felony DWI, but has no criminal history points; 42 months is recommended for a defendant with only one criminal history point; 48 months is recommended when there exists two criminal history points; and a presumptive commit-to-prison is recommended for any individual defendant having three or more criminal history points.
The penalties of a felony DWI can be imposed on a DWI offender who has 3 or more qualified prior DWI incidents within 10 years; or has prior felony DWI conviction; or has prior conviction of felony-level crime or criminal vehicular homicide or injury involving alcohol or controlled substances.
Needless to say, a charge of Felony DWI in Minnesota is a very serious offense. If you or someone you know has been charged with this offense, it is important to seek the advice and help of an experienced lawyer.