Minnesota has four degrees of DWI based on the seriousness of the charges, the defendant’s level of intoxication, any prior DWI incidents or convictions, any previous driver’s license revocations, and whether any aggravating factors exist. Pursuant to Minnesota law, a first-degree DWI is the most serious and is considered a felony.
It is important to understand that in Minnesota, once you are a felon, you are always a felon for DWIs.
Legal definition of a Minnesota DWI
In Minnesota, you can be charged with a DWI if you drove, operated, or were in physical control of any motor vehicle:
- While under the influence of alcohol
- While under the influence of a controlled substance
- While under the influence of another intoxicating substance, and you knew, or should have reasonably known, that said substance can cause impairment
- With a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of the offense or within two hours of the incident of .08 or greater (.04 or greater for a commercial vehicle)
- With any amount of a Schedule I or II controlled substance or its metabolite, except for marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols
You can receive a Minnesota DWI for any type of motorized vehicle including motorboats, off-road recreational vehicles, snowmobiles, motorbikes, and other motorized vehicles.
Factors of a First Degree Minnesota DWI
Unlike the other three levels of DWI offense—second-, third-, and fourth-degree—felony DWI in Minnesota does not rely on aggravating factors. Instead, pursuant to the law, a felony DWI occurs when the defendant has:
- Three or more “qualified prior impaired driving incidents” within the past ten years
- A previous felony DWI conviction
- Certain prior criminal vehicular-related felony conviction such as criminal vehicular homicide
Criminal penalties for Felony First Degree DWI
If you are convicted of a felony DWI in Minnesota, you face between a mandatory three years in prison up to a maximum seven years in prison and/or a fine of up to $14,000.
Administrative penalties for First Degree DWI in Minnesota
If you are convicted of a felony Minnesota DWI, in addition to criminal penalties, you will have your driver’s license revoked for an extended period of time, typically four years; however, if you continue to use alcohol and/or drugs, this revocation period will be extended, and you may even have your license canceled as “inimical to public safety.” Once your license is reinstated, Minnesota has a zero-tolerance policy for any type of driving while under the influence.
In some cases, you can apply for a restricted driver’s license if you agree to participate for three to five years in Minnesota’s ignition interlock device (IID) program.
You may also face license plate impoundment and vehicle forfeiture. Any impoundment order is applicable to not only the vehicle used during the commission of the DWI—even if the driver is not the vehicle’s owner—as well as to any other vehicles owned, leased, or registered by the defendant. License plate impoundments last for a minimum of one year during which time you may apply for an interim restricted “whiskey” plate. The state can also seize your vehicle if it was used during the commission of a second-degree or felony DWI.
The bottom line
Because of the potentially high criminal and administrative penalties including incarceration, high fines, loss of driver’s license, and license plate and vehicle impoundment, it is critical to consult with an experienced and knowledgeable Minnesota DWI defense attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights and get you the best outcome possible.