3 factors that could make a DWI a felony in Minnesota

It is important to understand what could elevate a DWI charge to a felony in Minnesota.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, the number of drunk driving arrests has declined by 40 percent over the last 10 years. Additionally, the majority of these arrests are first-time offenders, as repeat offenders are becoming less and less common.

With all that said, there are still people who are arrested on DWI charges every week across the state. A first-time DWI is typically a misdemeanor, unless there are certain factors present. Here, we explore what could elevate any such charge into a felony.

1. Having multiple offenses

One of the quickest ways to be charged with a felony DWI is to have multiple offenses. State laws say that anyone who is arrested on charges of drunk driving within 10 years of three other, separate impaired driving incidents will face a first degree DWI charge, which is a felony.

2. Having a previous felony DWI

There is a caveat to the above law: Even if a driver only has one previous DWI offense, if that offense was a felony, then the next DWI event will be treated as such as well. This clearly exhibits why having a felony DWI on record could be problematic. Further, the law states that having any previous felony criminal vehicular operation conviction that involves controlled substances or alcohol would merit that a DWI charge be elevated to a felony.

3. Causing death or great bodily harm

If a drunk driver causes an accident that results in either great bodily harm or death to someone else, the charge brought against that driver is likely a felony. This includes death or injury to an unborn child.

Consequences of a felony DWI

In Minnesota, a first degree DWI charge comes with possible sentencing of up to seven years in prison as well as a $14,000 fine. The law also states that someone charged with a felony may face the following:

  • Having to reimburse the courts if convicted
  • Having to report weekly to a probation officer
  • Having to undergo random testing
  • Having vehicle registration plates impounded

Additionally, the person is required to undergo a chemical dependency assessment. In some cases, treatment may be mandatory. The use of an ignition interlock system may be available for some drivers who have lost privileges.

On top of all of this, the person would have a felony on record. That could have serious and adverse effects when it comes to looking for gainful employment and even a place to live. This points exactly to why having a strong defense is essential. Anyone who has concerns about this issue should speak to a criminal defense attorney in Minnesota.