A first-time DWI conviction with a fairly low blood alcohol concentration (BAC) may not, in and of itself, seem to be too bad, and you may be content to plead guilty, take the minimal punishment, and get on with your life. As many as 90 days in jail, a maximum fine of $1,000, up to two years’ probation, and a 90-day loss of license may seem to be a small price to pay to not have to deal with the legal ins and outs of fighting a DWI. Whereas a first-time offender will usually only serve a fraction of time, pay a smaller fine, and be eligible for community service instead of probation, while these may not seem like too harsh of consequences for a DWI, they are only one piece of a larger puzzle.
First, because the first-time offender now has an “enhanceable offense” on his/her record, a subsequent DWI arrest will increase dramatically the consequences. Additional problems can ensue such as higher car insurance rates, difficulties in renting cars on vacation, problems obtaining housing, and restrictions on traveling abroad. For example, Canada has made it quite difficult for anyone with a DWI to enter the country.
Perhaps one of the most serious areas of your life that can be affected by a DWI conviction is employment: both present positions and future opportunities.
If you are employed in certain positions, a DWI conviction can jeopardize your job. If you are sentenced to jail, your employer may not give you the necessary time off. If you lose your license and, therefore, your transportation to work, this, too, can cause other problems.
Some industries are particularly concerned with DWI convictions. Depending on the circumstances of the case, healthcare professionals, insurance agents, real estate agents, merchant seaman, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) workers, and other licensed professionals can have their license revoked. Teachers and other school employees oftentimes lose their jobs following a DWI conviction.
If you are employed as a driver—delivery, taxi, limousine, courier, etc.—you likely won’t be able to hide your conviction as the DMV routinely sends up-to-date information about employees’ driving records. Further, having a potentially dangerous driver on the road can cause an employer’s insurance rates to rise or insurance carriers can even refuse to insure someone with a drunk driving record.
Additionally, a DWI conviction can have a significant impact on your future employment, especially in a tight job market and if a potential job requires travel or a professional license.
Because a DWI is considered to be a criminal conviction, you must disclose it on any job application if asked. Many employers look at DWI offenses more harshly than other crimes because of the strong possibility that an employee may have an alcohol problem and relapse, thus causing other problems. Because such employees cost employers money due to higher on-the-job injuries, poor job performance, and excessive absenteeism, many employers are loath to hire those with DWI convictions—or even just arrests.
If you are in the military, you may be denied promotion or transfer—or even face expulsion—with a DWI conviction.
At the present time, nearly one in seven Minnesotans has a DWI conviction. Some folks will wait for subsequent offenses to consider consulting with or retaining an attorney, but, by then, this may be too late to lessen or stop the damage already done. Don’t wait to speak to an attorney about any DWI arrest.