Under any circumstances, a driving while impaired charge in the state of Minnesota is a serious and complex matter. Being charged with DWI is considered a severe offense, however, it is a completely different issue from being charged with DWI when an individual is injured as a result of the driver’s actions.
The majority of the states throughout the country have revised their drinking and driving laws to provide for stricter penalties when drunk driving leads to bodily injuries to one or more individuals.
Criminal Vehicular Operation
DWI cases in Minnesota are either considered a misdemeanor or a felony. When injuries are a result of a DWI incident, then it is generally considered as a CVO or criminal vehicular operation charge. A CVO charge can be classified as causing bodily harm, substantial bodily harm, great bodily harm, or injury to an unborn child. Criminal vehicular operation is a felony offense in the state, and unless the victim only suffers bodily harm with little to no pain, then the driver faces the same penalties as a felony DWI.
Of course, the driver cannot immediately be deemed guilty of the offense and convicted of a felony for driving a vehicle under the influence in which an innocent individual is injured. In order to prove that a DWI caused injury, it must first be established that the driver was operating the vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs with a blood alcohol content level of .08. This can be considered ”per se’ negligence. Otherwise, the prosecutor would have to prove that the driver acted in a negligent, grossly negligent or unlawful manner while driving, and that this negligence or unlawful act caused the accident that injured another individual.
If the driver was drunk driving or intoxicated, it is generally not necessary for the prosecutor to prove that the accused driver was violating any other traffic laws at the time of the accident. Furthermore, the prosecutor must determine, prior to charging a driver with criminal vehicular operation, whether the other parties injuries were in fact the result of the accident with the intoxicated driver and were not simply preexisting and in no way aggravated by the current accident in question. If the driver has no prior DWI convictions or driver’s license revocations for alcohol and there exist no injuries to the other party, then the drunk driver may be charged with a misdemeanor DWI and not a felony or gross misdemeanor DWI with injury.
Minnesota’s criminal justice system has very low tolerance for drivers who get behind the wheel while intoxicated, particularly when an innocent individual is injured as a result of the driver’s intoxication. Being charged a DWI with injury is not something to be taken lightly, as a felony DWI is much more severe compared to a misdemeanor DWI.
Penalties for a felony DWI are harsh, and include mandatory addiction treatment, forfeiture of vehicle, seven years imprisonment, and fines of up to $14,000.