Pursuant to Minnesota law, it is a crime to drive, operate, or be in physical control of any motor vehicle:
- While under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or any other intoxicating substance
- Having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or more at the time of the offense or within two hours
- Having any Schedule I or II controlled substance metabolites—excepting marijuana—
in your body
- Refusing to submit to a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine per the state’s implied consent law
In addition to cars, trucks, and motorcycles, this statute applies to motorboats, ATVs, motorcycles, off-road vehicles, snowmobiles, and any other motorized vehicle.
If convicted of a DWI, you may face both administrative and criminal penalties. Administrative penalties include driver’s license revocation or suspension, license plate impoundment, mandated use of an ignition interlock device (IID), mandated substance abuse counseling, and/or vehicle forfeiture.
Minnesota has four degrees of DWI offenses. A fourth-degree DWI is a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Both third degree DWI and second degree DWI are considered gross misdemeanors and are punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $3,000. First-degree DWI is a felony that is punishable by up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $14,000.
Penalties increase in severity if certain “aggravating” factors are involved. These factors include:
- Prior DWI offenses within the past ten years
- A BAC of .16 or higher
- The presence of a minor under age 16 in the vehicle at the time of the offense
Minnesota’s Ignition Interlock Program
Back in 2011, Minnesota enacted its Ignition Interlock Device (IID) program in order to permit certain DWI offenders to regain their driving privileges sooner via issuance of a limited and/or restricted driver’s license. IIDs require the driver to breathe into a tube, and the device measures his/her BAC levels. If alcohol is detected, the vehicle won’t start. Once the vehicle starts, the IID takes rolling retests.
Some drivers facing vehicle forfeiture may enroll in this program in order to retain their vehicle.
Changes to Vehicle Forfeiture and Whiskey Plates Law
Effective 1 July 2019, Minnesota’s new DWI vehicle forfeiture law went into effect. The former forfeiture law gave law enforcement wide latitude in seizing vehicles, even those of innocent owners. Consequently, these owners were required to negotiate the return of their vehicle with the prosecutor or in court which was quite time-consuming and expensive.
Under the new law, a vehicle owner has 60 days from the date of the incident to challenge the forfeiture in court. This gives the owner more time to enroll in the IID program, if applicable, and get his/her vehicle back sooner. Successful completion of the program usually results in complete dismissal of the forfeiture action.
Whereas many people know that driver’s licenses can be revoked following a DWI, not many are aware that license plates can also be revoked. “Whiskey plates” are impoundment plates that begin with the letter “W” followed by another letter and then four numbers. Following a DWI arrest, your vehicle’s plates may be impounded if you have:
- A prior DWI conviction or DWI-related license revocation in the past ten years
- A BAC of .16 or higher
- A minor under age 16 in the vehicle at the time of the incident
- A driving after revocation/suspension incident if your license was previously canceled as inimical to public safety
If you are a DWI offender who meets the above criteria, you are required to obtain whiskey plates on any and all vehicles you own or co-own for at least one year. Further, because this law—and the vehicle forfeiture law—applies to both drivers and vehicle owners, even if the vehicle owner is not the DWI offender, s/he still must obtain whiskey plates for the vehicle used for the offense.
A DWI is a serious offense with potentially significant and long-term effects. DWI law encompasses many areas and can be quite complex. Consulting with a qualified and experienced Minnesota DWI attorney will ensure that your rights are protected. For a free, no obligation consultation, please contact us today.