What is Driving While Impaired?

The Minnesota legislature wrote over fifty pages of driving while intoxicated (DWI) laws. It is available for anybody to view here. Generally speaking, Minnesota classifies DWIs in four categories:

  • First-Degree DWI

    According to Minnesota Statute §169A.24, a person is guilty of first-degree DWI if s/he:

    1. Commits three or more “qualified” DWI incidents;
    2. Was convicted of first-degree DWI in the past; or
    3. Was convicted of felony criminal vehicular operation and injury (substance- related offense) in the past. The maximum possible sentence for first-degree DWI is seven years imprisonment, a $14,000, or both. In first-degree DWI cases, a mandatory minimum three-year prison sentence may apply.

  • Second-Degree DWI

    According to Minnesota Statute §169A.25, a person is guilty of second-degree DWI if s/he is in physical control of a motor vehicle, motorboat, snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle, or off-road vehicle when:

    1. Under the influence of alcohol;
    2. Under the influence of a controlled substance (i.e., illegal drug);
    3. Knowingly under the influence of a hazardous substance that affects the nervous system, brain, or muscles so as to substantially impair his/her ability to drive;
    4. Under the influence of alcohol and a hazardous substance;
    5. The concentration of his/her blood alcohol content is .08 or more as measured within two hours of the time of being in physical control of the vehicle;
    6. The concentration of his/her blood alcohol content is .04 or more while operating a commercial motor vehicle; or
    7. Under the influence of a Schedule I or II substance, as defined here.
    AND
    8. Two or more aggravating factors are present when the violation was committed.

    The following is a list of aggravating factors:
    1. A qualified prior impaired driving incident within ten years of the current offense (e.g., a prior conviction for DWI or a prior conviction resulting from a DWI charge);
    2. Having an alcohol concentration of .20 or more 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.

    The maximum possible sentence for second-degree DWI is one-year imprisonment, a $3,000 fine, or both. In second-degree DWI cases, minimum jail sentences may apply, depending on how many qualified prior DWIs a person has. This mandatory minimum jail sentences range from 30 to 180 days.

  • Second-Degree DWI (Test Refusal)

    According to Minnesota Statute §169A.25, a person is guilty of second-degree DWI (test refusal) if:

    1. S/He is in physical control of a motor vehicle, motorboat, snowmobile, all- terrain vehicle, or off-road vehicle;
    2. S/He refuses a chemical test of his/her blood, breath, or urine; and
    3. One or more aggravating factors are present when the violation was committed.

    The following is a list of aggravating factors:

    1. A qualified prior impaired driving incident within ten years of the current offense (e.g., a prior conviction for DWI or a prior conviction resulting from a DWI charge);
    2. Having an alcohol concentration of .20 or more 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.

    The maximum possible sentence for second-degree DWI (test refusal) is one-year imprisonment, a $3,000 fine, or both. In second-degree DWI cases, minimum jail sentences may apply, depending on how many qualified prior DWIs a person has. This mandatory minimum jail sentences range from 30 to 180 days.

  • Third-Degree DWI

    According to Minnesota Statute §169A.26, a person is guilty of third-degree DWI if s/he is in physical control of a motor vehicle, motorboat, snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle, or off-road vehicle when:

    1. Under the influence of alcohol;
    2. Under the influence of a controlled substance (i.e., illegal drug);
    3. Knowingly under the influence of a hazardous substance that affects the nervous system, brain, or muscles so as to substantially impair his/her ability to drive;
    4. Under the influence of alcohol and a hazardous substance;
    5. The concentration of his/her blood alcohol content is .08 or more as measured within two hours of the time of being in physical control of the vehicle;
    6. The concentration of his/her blood alcohol content is .04 or more while operating a commercial motor vehicle; or
    7. Under the influence of a Schedule I or II substance, as defined here.
    AND
    8. One aggravating factor was present when the violation was committed. The following is a list of aggravating factors:

    1. A qualified prior impaired driving incident within ten years of the current offense (i.e., a prior conviction for DWI or a prior conviction resulting from a DWI charge);
    2. Having an alcohol concentration of .20 or more 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.

    The maximum possible sentence third-degree DWI is one-year imprisonment, a $3,000 fine, or both. In third-degree DWI cases, minimum jail sentences are mandatory, depending on how many qualified prior DWIs a person has. This mandatory minimum jail sentences range from 30 to 180 days.

  • Third-Degree DWI (Test Refusal)

    According to Minnesota Statute §169A.26, a person is guilty of third-degree DWI (test refusal) if:

    1. S/He is in physical control of a motor vehicle, motorboat, snowmobile, all- terrain vehicle, or off-road vehicle; and
    2. S/He refuses a chemical test of his/her blood, breath, or urine;

    The maximum possible sentence for a person who commits third-degree DWI (test refusal) is one-year imprisonment, a $3,000 fine, or both. In third-degree DWI (test refusal) cases, minimum jail sentences may apply, depending on how many qualified prior DWIs a person has. This mandatory minimum jail sentences range from 30 to 180 days..

  • Fourth-Degree DWI

    According to Minnesota Statute §169A.27, a person is guilty of fourth-degree DWI if s/he is in physical control of a motor vehicle, motorboat, snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle, or off-road vehicle when:

    1. Under the influence of alcohol;
    2. Under the influence of a controlled substance (i.e., illegal drug);
    3. Knowingly under the influence of a hazardous substance that affects the nervous system, brain, or muscles so as to substantially impair his/her ability to drive;
    4. Under the influence of alcohol and a hazardous substance;
    5. The concentration of his/her blood alcohol content is .08 or more as measured within two hours of the time of being in physical control of the vehicle;
    6. The concentration of his/her blood alcohol content is .04 or more while operating a commercial motor vehicle; or
    7. Under the influence of a Schedule I or II substance, as defined here.

    The maximum possible sentence for a person who commits fourth-degree DWI is ninety (90) days in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both.

  • Defenses

    Minnesota’s DWI laws are some of the toughest in the United States, but they are not impossible to fight. For example, an officer’s failure to obtain a search warrant for a driver’s blood, breath or urine may constitute an unreasonable search. If proven, this could be enough for a judge to dismiss any DWI charge.

    You need an aggressive Minnesota criminal attorney with experience in the courtroom and knowledge of the laws. Without a Minnesota criminal defense lawyer, you could face days, months, or even years behind bars. When you’re charged with DWI, don’t take a risk with your defense. Hire the right defense attorney who understands the system and isn’t afraid to fight for your rights.

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