Understanding multiple DWI offense penalties and defense in Minnesota

An arrest for drunk driving or a DWI of any sort can be serious. For any multiple-DWI offenses, the consequences are even more severe. However, that does not mean that persons facing a second or third DWI charge have no options. The ability to obtain results in a repeat DWI situation starts with a clear understanding of the laws and penalties in this area.

Minnesota state statistics recorded a total of 395 fatalities in 2012. More than 33 percent of those involved alcohol in some form and more than 26 percent involved a driver with a measured blood alcohol content over .08. In all, 28,418 DWI arrests were issued statewide last year.

Determination of multiple offenses

When you hear references to multiple or repeat DWI offenses, it can be confusing to know how that is exactly calculated. The state of Minnesota has what it calls a 10-year "look-back" period. That means that a DWI conviction can be used to enhance a subsequent offense for a period of 10 years.

If you received a DWI 11 years ago and are arrested for a DWI today, your current arrest would be treated the same as a first offense. If, however, you received a DWI nine years ago and then another one today, the current one would be enhanced to a more serious charge.

Penalties for multiple offenses

DWI convictions carry both criminal and administrative penalties. Penalties vary based upon several details but the following is a guideline that you can use:

  • For a first offense DWI with a BAC below .20 - a misdemeanor charge, 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine, license revocation and other possible administrative penalties.
  • For a first offense DWI with BAC above .20 or a child in the car - a gross misdemeanor charge, one year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine, whiskey plates, license revocation and other possible administrative penalties.
  • For second offense DWI or a first offense with refused DWI test - a gross misdemeanor charge, one year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine, whiskey plates, license revocation and other possible administrative penalties.
  • For third offense DWI - a gross misdemeanor charge, one year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine, forfeiture of vehicle, whiskey plates, license revocation and other administrative penalties more severe than those for a second offense .
  • For fourth or more offense DWI - a felony charge, 7 years in prison and/or $14,000 fine, forfeiture of vehicle, whiskey plates, license cancellation and other administrative penalties more severe than those for third offense.

Administrative penalties vary and include vehicle forfeitures, longer and longer loss of driving privileges, requirement for ignition interlock device, impounding of license plates and more.

Options for drivers charged with second or beyond DWI

If you have been charged with a DWI and it is your second or more in 10 years, you still do have options for a DWI defense. These include potential collateral challenges to your previous convictions if you were not represented by an attorney, challenging the admissibility of the state's test results, suppression of evidence obtained in violation of your constitutional rights and even avoiding mandatory jail time by getting onto the ignition interlock program.

Working with an experienced DWI attorney is the best way to learn how you can defend yourself against the most severe consequences when facing multiple DWI charges. It is always in your best interest to get proper legal help for such serious charges and potential consequences.