If you’ve been arrested and charged with drunk driving, a common fear is that you could face felony, rather than misdemeanor criminal charges. Felony charges are far more serious and can lead to a variety of severe penalties including jail time and the loss of some important rights. To find out more about drunk driving felonies in Minnesota, keep reading.
What’s a felony?
First things first, what is a felony? Felonies represent a category of crimes that are seen as the most serious offenses. What typically qualifies a crime as a felony is the amount of incarceration that a conviction would necessitate. Typically, felonies are those crimes that are punishable by at least a year behind bars. This incarceration will usually occur in a prison rather than a local jail.
In addition to a lengthier loss of freedom, felonies also involve large fines, sometimes reaching into the thousands of dollars. Examples of felonies include things such as murder, rape, robbery and, in some cases, drunk driving.
When is drunk driving a felony?
Though most DWIs in Minnesota are considered misdemeanors, it is possible for an impaired driver to be charged with a felony offense. This categorization will depend on the existence of a number of aggravating factors, including you number of previous arrests, your level of intoxication, whether anyone else was injured in a drunk driving crash, etc. To be charged with a felony DWI in Minnesota, a driver will need to have at least three aggravating factors, enough to qualify for First Degree DWI.
Punishment for felony conviction
In Minnesota, the punishment can be quite severe for those facing felony drunk driving charges. The law says that convicted drunk drivers could receive up to seven years in prison as well as being ordered to pay up to $14,000 in fines. While this represents the worst-case scenario, the law explains that judges must sentence those convicted of felony DWI charges to a minimum prison sentence of three years. After the prison sentence has been served, felony DWI convicts can also be placed on conditional release for up to five years and, if they fail to abide by the rules of their release, can be sent back to prison.
Collateral consequences of felony conviction
Beyond prison time, those convicted of a felony DWI can face a series of collateral consequences that can result in punishment for years into the future. Some felony convictions result in the loss of a person’s right to vote or own firearms. Non-citizens can occasionally be deported (though this is unlikely for a drunk driving charge). In some cases, the felony could be used to deny a person access to student loans for education or some public housing opportunities. The message is clear: a felony DWI conviction is serious business and requires the help of an experienced Minnesota DWI attorney.
Source: “An Overview of Minnesota’s DWI Laws,” published at House.Leg.State.MN.US.