PinAs a whole, the United States struggles with driving while intoxicated as 31 percent of vehicle accident fatalities in the U.S. in 2015 were caused by drunk drivers. South Africa was the country with the most fatalities as almost 6 out of 10 deaths on the road involved alcohol consumption, but the U.S. ranks as one of the worst countries for drunk driving deaths. While grouped together during this study, the states have varying ways of dealing with drunk driving even though the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration is the same everywhere in the U.S.

How Does Minnesota Rank?

When evaluating the potential penalties for a DUI or DWI in America, Minnesota is in the middle for the severity of drunk driving consequences. When WalletHub organized the states from strictest to most lenient, Minnesota ranked as the 29th strictest state. From the other perspective, this makes Minnesota the 22nd most lenient state out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. To determine how the states compared, consequences including fines, jail time and license suspensions were evaluated along with things like how a convicted driver’s car insurance premiums rose.

Higher BAC Carries Worse Penalties

Minnesota is not somewhere in the middle because all of the potential consequences are somewhere in between harsh and lenient but because some penalties are relatively less severe while others are tougher. For example, those with a BAC of .16 percent face more serious charges even for a first offense. This qualifies as a gross misdemeanor, and some counties in MN might even sentence someone to jail time. This level of inebriation can also result in a license suspension for one year along with an ignition interlock device. These are things that are not mandatory for those with a slightly lower BAC of .15 percent.

Less Mandatory Sentences

One situation where Minnesota is less strict is when dealing with jail time. There is no mandatory jail time for a conviction for a first time offender regardless of blood alcohol concentration, but there is in Alaska, which is the third strictest state for drunk driving penalties. One conviction there leads to three days in jail, and two convictions results in 20 days in jail. The first time fine is a minimum of $1,500, and the second time fine is at least $3,000. Minnesota’s mandatory minimum fines are much less, but are still sizable.

Other MN Specifics

In Minnesota, one could spend a minimum of two days in jail for a second alcohol-related offense within ten years. This is lenient compared to other states, but the state is harsher when it comes to felonies as a fourth DWI conviction within ten years is a felony. Furthermore, in Minnesota, a mandatory alcohol assessment is required for first time alcohol related driving offenses, and there are child endangerment protections in place within the drunk driving statute. However,  sobriety checkpoints on the roadways by police officers is not legal in Minnesota. The state does have some DWI prevention methods in place but not others and ranks at number 30 for prevention.

Individual Circumstances Matter

The laws provide a sense of what the consequences for a DWI conviction could be, but the variables in every situation are also very important. The minimum penalty for someone with a higher BAC is worse, but even those with a lower BAC could face severe consequences if one or multiple people are injured in a wreck. Those with multiple DWIs could also face greater charges, and anyone who is underage faces more extreme consequences as any amount of alcohol is considered illegal for those under 21. Additionally, just as each state has its own rules, the county one is in may make a difference too.

Depending on the circumstances, one may face relatively minor to severe punishments for DWI in Minnesota. Even when facing small charges, one might wish to consult an attorney to fight these charges as four convictions within ten years for DWI is a felony in Minnesota and one could be facing potential prison time.