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. A first-degree Minnesota DWI is a felony, while a fourth-degree DWI is the least serious of all DWIs. Pursuant to Minnesota law, a fourth-degree DWI is a misdemeanor offense.
Legal definition of DWI
A DWI in Minnesota is defined as a person driving, operating, or being in physical control of any motor vehicle while:
- Under the influence of alcohol
- Under the influence of a controlled substance
- Under the influence of an intoxicating substance, and the person knows that said substance can cause impairment
- Under the influence of a combination of alcohol and drugs
- Having 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)
- Having any amount of a Schedule I or II controlled substance or its metabolite, except for marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols
These provisions also include motorboats, off-road recreational vehicles, snowmobiles, motorbikes, and the like.
Definition of Fourth Degree Minnesota DWI
If this is your first DWI—or the first DWI within the past ten years—you have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .16 or lower, and there are no other aggravating factors, you will likely be charged with fourth-degree DWI.
Aggravating factors include refusing a BAC test, having a BAC greater than .20, or having a minor in the vehicle at the time of the offense. If any of these aggravating factors are present, you will be charged with third-degree DWI which is a gross misdemeanor in Minnesota with more stringent penalties.
Also, if your DWI caused an accident, you could face additional charges.
Generally, if you are arrested for a fourth-degree DWI in Minnesota, you will be released on your own recognizance or to a friend or family member after booking. In some cases, however, you could be held in jail for several hours before being released.
Criminal penalties for Fourth Degree DWI
Unlike other levels of DWI offenses in Minnesota, there is no mandatory minimum sentence; however, this does not mean that there will be no jail time. You could face from 30 to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Other potential penalties for a Minnesota fourth-degree DWI include probation, completion of a chemical dependency evaluation, community service, and/or court-ordered alcohol or substance abuse treatment.
In addition to criminal consequences, you will lose your driver’s license for 90 days if your BAC is between .08 and .15. This revocation period will be reduced to 30 days if this is your first offense and you plead guilty. However, if your BAC is .16 to .19 then your driver’s license will be revoked for one year, and you will lose your license plates for one year as well.
If this is your first DWI arrest or alcohol-related driver’s license revocation, you may be able to have your offense reduced to misdemeanor careless driving. This is why you should contact an experienced and qualified DWI attorney in Minnesota as soon as possible to help you obtain the best possible outcome.