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, and a fourth-degree DWI is a misdemeanor. Pursuant to Minnesota law, a second-degree DWI is a gross misdemeanor offense.
Legal definition of a Minnesota DWI
Under Minnesota law, you can be charged with a DWI in Minnesota if you drove, operated, or were in physical control of any motor vehicle:
- While under the influence of alcohol and/or a controlled substance, or 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
For purposes of this statute, a Minnesota DWI can be assessed if the vehicle was a motorboat, off-road recreational vehicle, snowmobile, motorbike, and other motorized vehicle.
Factors of a Second Degree Minnesota DWI
You are guilty of a second-degree DWI if two of the following aggravating factors are present or if you refuse to take a BAC test. Aggravating factors include:
- Prior DWI within the past ten years
- A BAC of .16 or higher
- Driving with a minor under age 16 in the vehicle at the time of the DWI
- A previous BAC test refusal
Thus, you can be charged with a second-degree DWI if you have:
- Two prior DWIs within the past ten years
- A BAC of .16 or greater plus a prior DWI within the past ten years
- A BAC of .16 or greater while driving with a minor under age 16 in the vehicle at the time
- Driving while under the influence with a minor less than 16 years of age in the vehicle at the time and a prior DWI within the past ten years
- A prior BAC test refusal coupled with a prior DWI within the past ten years or driving with a minor in the vehicle at the time
You may face a second-degree DWI even if you have no prior DWI incident due to the other, aforementioned aggravating factors.
Criminal penalties for Second Degree DWI
Second-degree DWI is considered a gross misdemeanor that is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $3,000. However, if the current DWI is the third offense within the past ten years, there is a mandatory sentence of a minimum of 90 days in jail with at least 30 consecutive days served in jail or an intensive supervision program that requires at least six consecutive days to be served in a local jail. The court may also impose electronic home monitoring or intensive probation for the rest of the time.
Administrative penalties for Second Degree DWI in Minnesota
If you are convicted of a second-degree Minnesota DWI, in addition to criminal penalties, you will have your driver’s license revoked and will also face license plate impoundment and possible vehicle forfeiture. Plate impoundment occurs if you have two or more DWI convictions or alcohol-related license revocations within a ten-year period or if you have a BAC of .16 or higher.
The impoundment order may apply to more than one license plate. At the very least, the vehicle used during the commission of the DWI will have its plates impounded, even if the driver is not the vehicle’s owner. Further, this impoundment order is applicable to any vehicles owned, leased, or registered by the defendant. License plate impoundments last for a minimum of one year. After this time, the defendant can apply for a temporary license plate called “whiskey” plates because they start with the letter “W.” The state can also seize your vehicle if it was used during the commission of a second-degree or felony DWI.
Some drivers may register for the state’s ignition interlock device (IID) program to regain their driving privileges sooner. Costs of this program are the driver’s responsibility.
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 to protect your rights and get you the best outcome possible.