In its most basic application, enhanceable crimes increase sentences and penalties. Pursuant to Minnesota law, an offense is enhanceable if a guilty plea or conviction requires consideration of the defendant’s prior criminal history and other factors for the past ten years in order to punish the defendant for repeat conduct. Generally, if a person is charged with the same offense, then the severity of the charge may be increased—such as from a misdemeanor to a felony—thus leading to increased consequences.
The law specifies a particular range of criminal sanctions for each crime, and a convicted defendant is largely sentenced within the specified, allowable sentencing range. However, when aggravating factors occur, the judge may increase a defendant’s sentence beyond said range.
DWI as an enhanceable crime
Among these enhanceable offenses is DWI. Minnesota has four levels of DWI: first through fourth degree. Each level of severity has its own definition pursuant to state law and carries certain criminal sanctions as well as civil and administrative penalties. As would be expected, the level of a charge increases substantially for those with prior similar charges. The existence of other aggravating factors further increases the level of severity and subsequent sanctions. This makes DWI an enhanceable offense.
What are aggravating factors?
Factors that are considered aggravating or enhancing for a Minnesota DWI include:
- Prior DWI incidents or license revocation convictions on a driver’s record for the past ten years
- Previously failing to submit to evidentiary breath, blood, or urine tests
- A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least .16
- Having a child under age 16 in the vehicle at the time of the offense
How are aggravating factors used?
A judge considers each aggravating factor separately when determining the severity of a charge. For a fourth-degree misdemeanor DWI charge, the driver must have neither previous DWI charges nor other aggravating factors. The maximum criminal penalty for a fourth degree DWI is up to 90 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
The existence of one aggravating factor—or if the person refuses to submit to a DWI evidentiary breath, blood, or urine test—the charge will be third degree DWI that is punishable by up to one year in prison and up to a $3,000 fine.
If the person has one prior DWI incident plus another aggravating factor—or if s/he has no previous DWI incidents but two aggravating factors exist—s/he will be charged with second degree DWI, a gross misdemeanor, that is punishable by up to one year in prison and up to a $3,000 fine.
Finally, first degree DWI is a felony. The person must have at least three previous DWI convictions and/or driver’s license revocations or have been previously convicted of felony DWI or criminal vehicular homicide. This offense is punishable by up to seven years in prison and up to a $14,000 fine.
Other enhanceable offenses in Minnesota
DWI is not the only Minnesota crime that is subject to enhanced sentencing based on the presence of aggravating factors. Other enhanceable offenses include:
- Domestic assault
- Violation of a DV restraining order or no-contact order
- Driving without vehicle insurance
- Fifth degree assault
- Indecent exposure
- Interference with privacy
- Some types of trespass