An individual convicted of a Minnesota DWI may possibly be charged with what the court refers to as a penalty assessment. A penalty assessment is an amount that is added to base fines on a DWI charge, and differs from the jail time or monetary fine charged on an infraction, misdemeanor, or felony offense. A penalty assessment can often be a hefty amount, and can considerably increase the amount of monetary fees that must be paid.
According to Minnesota statute 169A.285, the court may opt to impose a penalty assessment when it sentences an individual who is convicted of driving while impaired while having a blood alcohol concentration level of at least .20 as measured at the time of the violation or within two hours of the time of the violation. The court may impose this assessment in addition to other charges or penalties that are authorized by the law.
In New Hampshire courts, a 24 percent penalty assessment is added to all fines, and should ideally be paid along with the fine in full on the day of the trial or on the day the sentence is imposed. In Orange County courts, penalty assessments are calculated to be 170 percent of the offense fine, which is essentially an additional $17 for every $10 of the offense fine that is imposed. In Minnesota courts, a penalty assessment may amount up to $1,000.
Many individuals charged with DWI fail to fight the charges made against them because they feel guilty for having had a few drinks. If you are charged with a DWI in the state of Minnesota, the best possible way to avoid paying the penalty assessment is by fighting your DWI charges. There are numerous factors that can lead to a dismissal of charges or a reduction in charges, such as faulty chemical test results.
State law dictates that penalty assessment money collected must be distributed in a specific way. If the arresting officer is an official employee of a political subdivision or police department, then the penalty assessment must be forwarded directly to the treasury of the political subdivision or police department. The police officers are entitled to use this money for training, enforcement, and education activities relating to DWI deterrence and detection.
If the arresting officer is an employee of the state, such as Minnesota State Patrol, then the penalty assessment must be forwarded directly to the state treasury. This will then be credited to the general fund.
Since prosecutors or city attorneys are very aware of the fact that penalty assessments are distributed to the police department that they represent, they tend to work hard to have the court enforce a high penalty assessment for each of their cases.
DWI defense attorneys, on the other hand, utilize their legal experience and knowledge to keep these penalty assessment fees as low as possible for the best interests of their clients. It is therefore crucial to seek the legal services of a qualified DWI attorney who both knows and understands when penalty assessments apply.
Source: 2013 Minnesota Statutes: Penalty Assessment, published on https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?year=2013&id=169A.285.