Minnesota DWI Laws and Penalties

The definition of “driving while impaired” and penalties for a DWI conviction in Minnesota.

Minnesota’s DWI laws prohibit motorists from operating or being in actual physical control of a vehicle:

  • with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or greater
  • while under the influence of any controlled substance, drug, or alcohol, or
  • with any bodily content of a scheduled controlled substance (illegal drugs) other than marijuana or THC.

A driver is considered “under the influence” when she or she does not “possess that clearness of intellect and control” of him or herself than he or she otherwise would.

Minnesota DWI Penalties

After a driver is convicted of a DWI offense, the judge has discretion as to the length and severity of most penalties within the guidelines that are set by statute. (Though DWI penalties are oftentimes the result of plea bargaining between the defendant and the prosecution.) The guidelines are structured around the “degree” of the offense, and the degree is determined by the number of prior offenses in the last ten years, the driver’s BAC, and a number of other factors.

Fourth Degree DWI Penalties

Most first-offense DWIs are fourth degree offenses, which are misdemeanors. A fourth degree DWI conviction carries up to 90 days in jail and a maximum $1,000 in fines. However, first offenders often receive community service and/or substance abuse treatment in lieu of jail time. The driver’s license will be suspended for at least 30 days, but an ignition interlock restricted license is generally available.

Third Degree DWI Penalties

A DWI that involves one aggravating factor is a third degree offense and gross misdemeanor. Aggravating factors include a prior offense within the last ten years, a BAC of at least .16%, and having a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle. A conviction carries 30 days to one year in jail and a maximum $3,000 in fines. After serving 48 hours in jail, the driver can typically serve the remaining sentence can under house arrest or via community service. The driver’s license will be suspended for at least one year (two years if the driver’s BAC was .16% or more).

Second Degree DWI Penalties

A DWI that involves at least two aggravating factors is a second degree offense and a gross misdemeanor. A second degree DWI carries 90 days to one year in jail and up to $3,000 in fines. The driver must serve at least 30 days in jail prior to house arrest or community service release. The driver’s license will be suspended for at least one year (two years if the driver’s BAC was .16% or more). The offender will also be subject to at least 30 days of electronic alcohol monitoring during probation.

First Degree DWI Penalties

DWI offenders who have at least three prior DWIs or a prior impaired driving felony can be convicted of a first degree DWI, a felony. A conviction carries three to seven years in prison and up to $14,000 in fines. First-degree offenders also must complete a chemical dependency program and five years of probation.

Substance Abuse Evaluations and Treatment

All offenders are required to complete a chemical dependency evaluation prior to sentencing. Repeat offenders will be required to complete an impaired driving repeat offender program. The repeat offender program can include supervised probation, house arrest, random testing, and an ignition interlock device requirement.

Administrative Suspension

All drivers are deemed to have given consent to chemical testing under Minnesota’s implied consent law. Drivers who unlawfully refuse or fail a chemical test will face license revocation. Depending on the driver’s BAC and history, the following minimum license revocations apply.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense

Failure

90 days (1 year if at least .16% BAC)

1 year (2 years if .16 BAC)

3 years

Refusal

1 year

2 years

3 years

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety can also seize the driver’s license plate or vehicle for repeated impaired driving offenses.

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