PinJust a couple of days can make a big difference in the consequences of a DWI for college students in Minnesota. That’s because Minnesota takes under-age drinking extremely seriously, so a college student under age 21 who is caught drinking and driving faces much stricter limits and much stiffer penalties.

These harsh penalties make it imperative you quickly find an experience defense attorney if you or your college student child is facing a DWI charge in Minnesota.

Strict Limits for Younger Drivers

The first effect of Minnesota’s strict treatment of underage drinking is that anyone under age 21 caught driving while impaired can be charged with DWI if their blood alcohol content is as low as 0.02 percent. Only 1 drink is needed to raise a person’s blood alcohol content to 0.02 percent, even someone who weighs 240 pounds.

Compare this to the limit for someone who is 21, where the blood alcohol level needs to be 0.08 percent for them to be charged with a DWI, unless there are other extreme circumstances. This means a 160-pound male student could drink 3 beers without topping the DWI threshold. Of course, if your driving is too erratic or you cause an accident, you could still be charged with DWI with a lower blood alcohol level.

Harsher Penalties for Underage Drivers

Minnesota law also allows for the imposition of harsher administrative penalties for those under 21 who are convicted of DWI. A driver under age 21 with a DWI could have their vehicle confiscated, their driver’s license suspended, be required to perform community service and be mandated to attend alcohol education classes.

These administrative penalties are added on top of the criminal penalties, which include a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail term of up to 90 days for a first offense and a fine of up to $3,000 and a year in jail for a second offense. The jail time requirements could affect a student’s ability to complete a semester, and the fines could affect your ability to pay for your education.

Penalties Outside the Legal Arena

College students also face the strong possibility of receiving additional punishment from their school when charged with a DWI. Students are obligated to inform their college or university when they face criminal proceedings.

Each school will have their own procedures to deal with students charged with a crime, but most will have some sort of administrative hearing for the student. Most universities have an office that will conduct an investigation into your case, then present the findings to a hearing panel composed of staff, faculty and students. These panels can impose penalties ranging from requiring treatment or education programs to temporary suspension to expulsion from the university. Other schools will determine the penalty strictly through administrative staff.

These hearings sometimes will take place more quickly than the legal proceedings, so it’s important to have attorney representation to obtain the best outcome from this process.

A DWI conviction also can adversely affect your future education plans. Many post-graduate programs will use a DWI conviction as an immediate disqualifier or at best will move you down in the ranks of potential students. You might need to prove you have completed a treatment or educational program to ensure your future behavior will not be a risk for the graduate program.

The sum of these stricter restrictions for underage drinkers and harsher penalties should convince students under age 21 that drinking and driving is not worth the risk to your future. Even better is to follow the law and not drink if you are under 21.

But if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of facing a DWI charge, contact us immediately for a free consultation to learn how we can get the best possible outcome to keep you in school and on your educational path.