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What’s the difference between a DUI and a DWI in Minnesota?

What’s the difference between a DUI and a DWI in Minnesota?

DWI laws in Minnesota

The terms "DUI" and "DWI" in Minnesota both refer to the same offense: the act of driving or controlling a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or a hazardous substance. This means operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher (.04 for drivers of commercial vehicles) or with any amount of a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance other than marijuana. 

Depending on the circumstances and whether or not there are aggravating factors, these crimes could be charged as misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors, or felonies. Aggravating factors include 

  • Having a BAC level over .16 (more than twice the legal limit)
  • The presence of a minor child in the vehicle during the offense
  • Prior DUI/DWI conviction(s) or drug/alcohol-based revocation of your driving privileges within the last ten years

If you refuse to take a BAC or breathalyzer test, you can be charged with further penalties.

Consequences of DUI/DWI in Minnesota

If you are charged with a DUI or DWI, you will need to fight both the civil and criminal consequences of the charge to completely defend yourself. At the civil hearing, you will have a chance to fight the license revocation in order to reinstate your driving privileges. At your criminal hearing, you will have a chance to fight your conviction. 

Note that the outcome of the civil license hearing does not impact the decision made at your criminal trial, but if you are convicted at your criminal trial, your license will be revoked even if you win your license revocation challenge. 

​​Any DWI attorney worth hiring will handle both the civil and criminal penalties associated with your DWI case. If an attorney is telling you they will only handle the criminal part of your case, walk away. In Minnesota, having either a DWI criminal conviction or a civil license revocation counts as a “prior conviction” if you get another DUI within a 10-year period. In essence, you have to fight and win at both the license revocation hearing and in criminal court to prevail. If a lawyer is telling you he or she will only handle part of your case, they are telling you they will not defend you from the real consequences of a DWI. Find a lawyer who will.

Civil consequences of DUI/DWI

When you are charged with a DUI/DWI, you will receive notice of your license revocation. You will have the opportunity to fight against this revocation at your civil hearing. The following table lists the amount of time you can expect your license to be revoked and whether you can expect to be eligible for a limited or restricted license.

Criminal consequences of DUI/DWI

You will have a chance to fight against conviction at your criminal trial. The table below will help you understand what the consequences are for each degree of DWI/DUI.

How do Minnesota’s DWI laws compare to the rest of the country?

The consequences for being convicted of a DUI/DWI vary from state to state. Even the legal amount of alcohol you can have in your system varies depending on the state you live in — Utah’s BAC limit is .05, whereas most states have a BAC limit of .08.

Maximum length of administrative license suspensions on first offense by state

The following map shows the maximum number of days a driver’s license can be revoked in each state for a first-offense DUI/DWI. As you can see, the laws vary widely from state to state. For example, in Kansas, a first-time DWI will only result in a 30-day license revocation. In Minnesota, that number jumps to at least 90 days. And in Tennessee, a first-time DWI could result in a license revocation for up to one year.

How other DWI/DUI penalties vary from state to state

Each state also carries different criminal penalties for DWI/DUIs. The fines you may owe and how much jail time you can expect to serve vary widely depending on each state’s laws. If you’ve been arrested for a DWI/DUI, it’s very important that you consult with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who can help you understand the unique laws in your state. Not sure how to find a great lawyer? Read our blog post on what to watch out for when hiring a defense attorney. 

What to do if you’re arrested for DWI in Minnesota

If you’re arrested for a DUI/DWI, your first step is to contact a criminal defense attorney. Schedule a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case. Your attorney will help you fight for your rights and get your life back on track.

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