According to Minnesota law, DWI is considered to be an “enhanceable offense”.
When you have been charged with DWI, the exact degree of the charge or the appropriate severity of your drunk driving violation depends greatly on the factors that are present at the time the arrest is made.
Of course, the penalties become harsher as the degree of DWI becomes higher.
The aggravating factors in Minnesota are:
- Having a blood alcohol content of .20 or above in the current DWI offense
- Having a prior offense within the last ten years of the current DWI offense, whether a DWI conviction or a driver’s license revocation that is alcohol-related
- Having a child younger than 16 years of age in the vehicle at the time the offense occurred if the child is younger 36 months younger than the driver (but not for First Degree DWI)
The state tiers its criminal DWI according to degrees, ranging from Fourth (the least severe), to First (the most severe). Each degree carries a different set of consequences.
The presence of any one of these factors or a combination of these factors will result in your being charged a higher degree of DWI. The higher the degree of your DWI charge is, then the greater the consequences you’ll have to face for your offense. This may include extended jail time, additional fines, license suspension, and additional DWI penalties.
If there are no aggravating factors involved in the present offense, then the DWI is classified as a Fourth Degree DWI, a misdemeanor.
If the present offense has one aggravating factor, then it is categorized as a Third Degree DWI, which is a gross misdemeanor.
If the present offense has two or more aggravating factors, it is considered to be a Second Degree DWI, which is also deemed a gross misdemeanor.
A First Degree DWI, a felony, is solely dependent on the existence of prior convictions or DUI related license revocations as aggravating factors. The only way for you to be charged with a First Degree DWI is for the present offense to be your 4th DWI conviction or license revocation within a period of ten years or one has been convicted previously of a felony DUI or criminal vehicular operation/homicide.
If, for example, you are issued your first DWI, but you are found to have a blood alcohol content of .23 – an aggravating factor – then your Fourth Degree DWI will be elevated to a Third Degree DWI.
It is important to note that there certainly other factors that may be involved in a DWI arrest that could also impact the potential penalties. For example, if the vehicle was involved in some sort of property damage accident or if the driver has prior convictions for DWI that fall outside of the ten years noted above. Again, the presence of such factors do not necessitate a mandatory penalty, yet they are certainly examples of additional factors considered by the court at the time of sentencing.