DWI In Minnesota — Criminal Component

Minnesota DWI Defense Lawyers In Moorhead And Minneapolis

DWI In Minnesota

DWI (Driving While Impaired) cases in Minnesota have a civil component and a criminal component. The civil component of the case is the implied consent hearing - the proceeding in which the Minnesota Department of Public Safety has revoked/cancelled/suspended your Minnesota driving privileges and you are contesting the legitimacy of that revocation/suspension/cancellation. The criminal component of the case can result in a criminal record, jail time, fines, and court costs.

There are further issues that arise for those carrying a commercial driver's license (CDL) and for those under the age of 21. Please contact your attorney to learn more about these specific issues.

Implied Consent Hearing

Criminal Component

Under Minn. Stat. § 169A.20, it is a crime to drive, operate, or be in physical control of a motor vehicle anywhere within the state, or upon the ice of any boundary water under any of the following conditions:

  • When the person is under the influence of alcohol
  • When the person's alcohol concentration is 0.08 percent or more
  • When the person's alcohol concentration is 0.08 percent or more within two hours of the time of driving, operating or being in physical control of the motor vehicle
  • When the person's alcohol concentration is 0.04 percent or more at the time, or within two hours of the time, of driving, operating, or being in physical control of a commercial motor vehicle
  • When the person is knowingly under the influence of a hazardous substance that affects the nervous system, brain, or muscles of the person so as to substantially impair the person's ability to drive or operate the motor vehicle
  • When the person's body contains any amount of a controlled substance listed in schedule I or II other than marijuana
  • First offense DWI within 10 years is a misdemeanor

  • Second and third offenses within 10 years are gross misdemeanors

  • Fourth or more offenses within 10 years is a felony

There are four degrees of impaired driving offenses in Minnesota. They range from fourth-degree DWI (misdemeanor) to first-degree (felony). Please contact your attorney for further information regarding your DWI charge(s).

Potential criminal penalties

  • Fourth-Degree DWI:
    • Maximum penalty: 90 days in jail and/or $1,000.00 fine
    • Alcohol problem assessment for Minnesota licensed drivers
  • Third-Degree DWI:
    • Maximum penalty: one year in jail and/or $3,000.00 fine
    • Minimum $900.00 fine
    • Mandatory penalties apply if it is the person's second offense: minimum of 30 days incarceration, at least 48 hours of which must be served in a local correctional facility; or eight hours of community service for each day less than 30 that the person is ordered to serve in a local correctional facility. Minn. Stat. § 169A.275, subd. 1(a)(1) & 2
  • Second-Degree DWI:
    • Maximum penalty: one year in jail and/or $3,000.00 fine
    • Minimum $900.00 fine
    • Mandatory penalties apply if the person has one prior qualified incident: minimum of 30 days incarceration, at least 48 hours of which must be served in a local correctional facility; or eight hours of community service for each day less than 30 that the person is ordered to serve in a local correctional facility. Minn. Stat. § 169A.275, subd. 1(a)(1) & 2
    • Mandatory penalties apply if the person has two prior qualified incidents: a minimum of 90 days incarceration, at least 30 days of which must be served in a local correctional facility; or a program of intensive supervision described in Minn. Stat. § 169.74 that requires the defendant to consecutively serve at least six days in a local correctional facility. Minn. Stat. § 169A.275, subd. 2(a)(1) & 2
  • First-Degree DWI:
    • Felony offense
    • Maximum penalty: seven years imprisonment and/or a fine of $14,000.00
    • Minimum: Court must sentence the defendant to imprisonment for at least three years. Minn. Stat. § 169A.276, subd. 1(a). The court may stay execution of this mandatory sentence.
    • If the court executes the mandatory sentence, the court must order that the defendant be placed on conditional release for five years after release from prison. Minn. Stat. § 169A.276, subd. 3
    • If the court does not execute the mandatory sentence, the provisions of Minn. Stat. § 169A.275 apply. Ask your attorney for further clarification regarding this statute.

Vehicle Forfeiture

Under Minnesota DWI law, law enforcement can, in certain circumstances, seize your vehicle. A vehicle will be subject to forfeiture under Minnesota DWI laws when it is used in the commission of a designated offense or designated license revocation as defined by the forfeiture statute. Minn. Stat. § 169A.63, subd. 6.

If you are served with a Notice of Forfeiture by law enforcement, you have 30 days in which to demand judicial review of the forfeiture as prescribed in Minn. Stat. § 169A.63, subd. 8. If you fail to demand judicial review, the right to judicial determination is lost. Ask your attorney for further information regarding vehicle forfeiture if it applies in your case.

Vehicle License Plate Impoundment

Under Minnesota DWI law, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety can issue a registration plate impoundment order under several circumstances. Ask your attorney for further information regarding license plate impoundment if it applies in your case.

Collateral Consequences

There are several collateral consequences of a DWI conviction. Admissibility to certain countries, like Canada, may be prohibited for those convicted of DWI. The Federal Aviation Administration may take adverse action against a licensed pilot as a result of either a conviction or an implied consent revocation resulting from a DWI.

Criminal Component

Attorneys Specializing In Minnesota DWI Cases


Matthew Dearth, Kenneth J. Kohler, and Drew Hushka