Driving While Impaired (DWI/DUI)

DWI/DUIs are commonplace. Many people have a friend or a relative that has a driving while impaired conviction on their record. Most people think that DWI/DUIs are only for drinking and driving, but they can also be for driving with the presence of a scheduled controlled substance in your system whether it be an illegal substance or one you are prescribed.

While DWI/DUIs are commonplace, over the years the consequences of a DWI/DUI arrest or conviction have steadily increased. Those penalties can be criminal, but people often don’t realize that civil penalties and consequences can also come along with just an arrest for DWI.

 

Criminal Penalties

Criminal penalties for convictions of driving while impaired of any degree will generally include: probation (or conditional release if a prison sentence is pronounced), attendance at a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Victim Impact Panel (VIP), a chemical use assessment, restrictions on the use of alcohol and non-prescribed prescription drugs, a fine, general probationary conditions like staying in contact with your agent etc. and perhaps even jail or prison time. The exact criminal penalties depend on the level of driving while impaired that you are charged with.

Driving while impaired charges range in severity from 4th degree DWI/DUI (the least severe) to 1st degree DWI/DUI (the most severe). In Minnesota, driving while impaired is an enhanceable offense meaning that convictions for DWI/DUI within ten years of a new charge will make those charges more severe.

 

4th Degree Driving While Impaired

4th degree driving while impaired is the lowest level of driving while impaired offense. People are generally charged with 4th degree driving impaired if they do not have another conviction for DWI/DUI within ten years, their blood alcohol concentration is .08 but less than .16 or they appear to be impaired but there is no blood alcohol test or they have the presence of a scheduled controlled substance in their system.

4th degree driving while impaired is a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000.00. If you are convicted of a 4th degree DWI/DUI you may not serve any additional jail time if you spent the night in jail, but you will be placed on probation and will have time hanging over your head. Should you not complete probation successfully, you may end up serving some, or all of the time that is hanging. Additionally, you should be prepared to pay fines, surcharges and costs up to a $1,000.00.

 

3rd Degree Driving While Impaired

People are charged with third degree driving while impaired if there is a single aggravating factor present in their case. Aggravating factors include: 1.) A prior driving while impaired conviction or alcohol or substance license withdrawal within the past ten years; 2.) A blood alcohol concentration in excess of .16; or 3.) A child under the age of 16 in the vehicle at the time of the offense.

3rd degree driving while impaired is a gross misdemeanor punishable by 365 days in jail and/or a $3,000.00 fine. If you are convicted of a 3rd degree DWI/DUI you may be required to serve 48 hours or more in jail and will be placed on probation and have up to 365 days in jail hanging over your head. Should you not complete probation successfully, you may end up serving some, or all of the time that is hanging. Additionally, you should be prepared to pay fines, surcharges and costs up to a $3,000.00.

 

2nd Degree Driving While Impaired

People are charged with second degree driving while impaired if there are two aggravating factors present in their case. Aggravating factors include: 1.) A prior driving while impaired conviction or alcohol or substance license withdrawal within the past ten years; 2.) A blood alcohol concentration in excess of .16; or 3.) A child under the age of 16 in the vehicle at the time of the offense.

2rd degree driving while impaired is a gross misdemeanor punishable by 365 days in jail and/or a $3,000.00 fine. If you are convicted of a 2rd degree DWI/DUI you may be required to serve 90 days or more in jail (at least thirty of which will have to be consecutive) and will be placed on probation and have up to 365 days in jail hanging over your head. Should you not complete probation successfully, you may end up serving some, or all or all of the time that is hanging. Additionally, you should be prepared to pay fines, surcharges and costs up to a $3,000.00.

 

1st Degree Driving While Impaired

People are charged with first degree driving while impaired if there are three aggravating factors present in their case. Aggravating factors include: 1.) A prior driving while impaired conviction or alcohol or substance license withdrawal within the past ten years; 2.) A blood alcohol concentration in excess of .16; or 3.) A child under the age of 16 in the vehicle at the time of the offense.

1st degree driving while impaired is a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison and/or a $14,000.00 fine. If you are convicted of a 1st degree DWI/DUI you may be required to serve 180 days or more in jail (at least thirty of which will have to be consecutive) and may be placed on probation with additional time hanging over your head. Should you not complete probation successfully, you may end up serving some, or all or all of the time that is hanging. In some cases, a conviction for 1st degree driving while impaired may result in a prison sentence. If you are sent to prison, you will be subject to a 5-year conditional release period. If you violate your conditions of release, you may be sent back to prison to finish out the remainder of your sentence. Additionally, you should be prepared to pay fines, surcharges and costs in a significant amount.

 

Test Refusal

Refusing to submit to a breathalyzer (at the police station), blood test or urine test is a separate crime in Minnesota. The crime of test refusal ranges in degree from 3rd to 1st and carries with it criminal penalties identical to driving while impaired offenses. In some cases, the crime of test refusal may be more severe than the underlying criminal offense because it begins as a third-degree offense automatically. This means that a first-time offender whose blood alcohol concentration is in excess of .08 but less than .16 may be charged with a gross misdemeanor if they refuse to test but would have been charged with a misdemeanor offense had they submitted to testing.

 

Civil Penalties

If you are arrested for DWI/DUI you may face civil penalties whether you are convicted of a criminal offense or not. Every DWI/DUI case has a civil component to it that affects your license plates and driving privileges. The civil portion of your DWI/DUI case is separate from the criminal case. As a result, you can escape a conviction for DWI/DUI but at the same time face civil penalties. If you are convicted of a DWI/DUI though, you will be subject to civil penalties.

There are many civil penalties for DWI/DUIs. Many of those penalties will affect your ability to drive in Minnesota. This can include periods of the revocation, suspension or cancellation of your driving privileges for 30 days (for 4th degree DWI/DUI offenders who plead guilty at their first appearance) to up to 10 years (if the DWI/DUI involves an accident resulting in death). You may also be required to drive with ignition interlock which will prevent your vehicle from being operated if the person attempting to drive it has a breath alcohol concentration in excess of .02. Finally, you may have an alcohol restriction placed on your license. This is more commonly known as a B-Card. Having a B-Card means that if you consume alcohol your driver’s license may be cancelled. This consumption does not have to be in a vehicle and does not have to result in criminal charges although having alcohol in your system while driving with a B-Card is a separate offense.

In addition to driver’s license penalties, you may have your license plates impounded. If this happens you will be required to have special plates placed on your vehicle. These plates are commonly known as “whiskey plates” and are a white license plate with black letter where the plate number always begins with a “W.”

 

Civil Consequences

In addition to criminal and civil penalties, there are often civil consequences that accompany a conviction for a DWI/DUI. These include but are not limited to: Changing or obtaining life insurance or disability insurance and increased costs for auto insurance for you and your family. In addition to impacts on insurance coverage, one of the main civil consequences that people are not aware of involves a person’s ability to visit a foreign country. Some countries will deny entry to a person with a DWI/DUI conviction.

In our area, the main country that people have problems with is Canada. Canada may deny entry to a person with a DWI/DUI conviction. If that happens, the process to obtain entry into Canada can be very difficult. If you are planning a fishing or camping trip to Canada or are entering a Canadian port on a cruise, you will have to plan ahead so that you are not surprised if you are denied entry at the border.

 

CONTACT US

As you can see, the criminal penalties, civil penalties and civil consequences that can come with a DWI/DUI offense are severe. If you are facing charges for DWI/DUI in Brainerd, Aitkin, Little Falls, Long Prairie, Walker Wadena or the counties of Crow Wing, Aitkin, Morrison, Todd, Cass, or Wadena it is important that you have an experienced attorney who is prepared to advise you and fight for your rights.

Contact us today to arrange an appointment to speak to one of our lawyers about your DWI/DUI case.

*This material is educational only, it does not constitute legal advice, it should not be relied on and it does not create an attorney-client relationship.