Minnesota has four degrees of DWI based on the seriousness of the charges, the defendant’s level of intoxication, any prior DWI incidents or convictions, any previous driver’s license revocations, and whether any aggravating factors exist. Whereas a first-degree Minnesota DWI is a felony, under Minnesota law, a third-degree DWI is a gross misdemeanor offense.
Legal definition of a Minnesota DWI
You can be charged with a DWI in Minnesota if you drove, operated, or were in physical control of any motor vehicle:
- While under the influence of alcohol
- While under the influence of a controlled substance
- While under the influence of another intoxicating substance, and you knew, or should have reasonably known, that said substance can cause impairment
- While under the influence of a combination of alcohol and drugs
- With a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of the offense or within two hours of the incident of .08 or greater (.04 or greater for a commercial vehicle)
- With any amount of a Schedule I or II controlled substance or its metabolite, except for marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols
For purposes of this statute, you can be charged with a third-degree DWI in Minnesota if the vehicle was a motorboat, off-road recreational vehicle, snowmobile, motorbike, and other motorized vehicle.
Factors of a Third Degree Minnesota DWI
You will be charged with a third-degree DWI if one aggravating factor is present or if you refuse to take a BAC test. Aggravating factors include:
- A BAC of .16 or greater
- A prior DWI within the past ten years
- Driving while under the influence with a minor less than 16 years of age in the vehicle at the time
- A prior BAC test refusal
While you may be released on your own recognizance following a third-degree DWI arrest, you may also be booked into jail and subject to bail and/or other conditions of release based on your previous criminal history and the arresting officer’s and judge’s discretion.
Criminal penalties for Third Degree DWI
Unlike a fourth-degree DWI, there are mandatory penalties for a third-degree DWI as well as long-term monitoring; however, these penalties vary based on the aggravating factor that is present.
If the current DWI offense is your second Minnesota DWI incident within the past ten years, you will face mandatory penalties to include a minimum of 30 days in jail with 48 hours to be served consecutively. The remaining 28 days could be served in jail or on house arrest. You may also be able to substitute community service hours for jail days. The potential maximum jail sentence for a third-degree Minnesota DWI is one year. Additionally, you face a fine of up to $3,000.
If your aggravating factor is the result of a BAC of .16 or greater or having a minor under the age of 16 in your vehicle at the time of the incident, there are no mandatory criminal penalties; however, many prosecutors still view a third-degree DWI as serious and will seek jail time or lengthy community service hours.
If you are convicted of third-degree DWI in Minnesota, you will likely receive probation for, generally, two to four years. Probation conditions typically include remaining law abiding, completing an alcohol or other chemical dependency assessment and treatment, and attending and completing a two-hour Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) victim impact panel. Other potential penalties include ongoing drug and alcohol testing and community service.
Similar to a fourth-degree DWI, if convicted of a third-degree Minnesota DWI, in addition to criminal penalties, you will lose your driver’s license for one year and face license plate impoundment for a year as well. Having your license reinstated after revocation can be expensive, and this is why it is critical to retain the services of an experienced and knowledgeable Minnesota DWI criminal defense attorney.
Potential reduced charges
In some cases, you may be able to have your offense reduced to misdemeanor careless driving or a misdemeanor fourth-degree DWI. Again, this is why you should contact an experienced and qualified DWI attorney in Minnesota as soon as possible to help you obtain the best possible outcome.