Being charged with a DWI can be highly stressful. If this is your first one, you may not know where to turn or what to do. First and foremost, you need to understand what the charges are as well as possible repercussions if you are convicted. Generally, a DWI conviction—even a first one—can be quite expensive. An experienced Minnesota DWI attorney not only can provide the information you may need but can also help you fight your charges and obtain the best possible outcome.
What is a DWI in Minnesota?
Pursuant to state law, driving while intoxicated means driving with a blood alcohol concentration BAC of .08 or higher or driving while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance.
Generally, a first-time DWI in Minnesota is a fourth-degree misdemeanor; however, any aggravating factors may elevate this charge to a third-degree or even second-degree DWI, both of which are gross misdemeanors. By definition, a fourth-degree DWI is commission of a DWI without any DWI conviction within ten years prior and without any aggravating factors.
Aggravating factors can include:
- BAC of .16 or greater
- A prior DWI conviction within ten years of the current charge
- Having a child under age 16 in the vehicle at the time of the DWI
- Refusing to submit to a breath test
If there are aggravating circumstances, you may be charged with third-degree or even second-degree DWI, and, as would be expected, the potential costs can increase dramatically. A third-degree DWI involves one of the aforementioned aggravating factors, and criminal sanctions include up to one year in jail and/or up to a $3,000 fine. A second-degree DWI contains two of the aforementioned aggravating factors, and is punishable by the same maximum penalties as a third-degree DWI.
A fourth-degree DWI conviction is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of $1,000 plus legal expenses. However, for the typical fourth-degree, first-time DWI with no aggravating factors, you may receive a stay of execution of any jail time in exchange for probation and/or community service. Other potential criminal sanctions may include mandatory attendance and completion of a chemical dependency assessment, alcohol or drug treatment, abstinence of alcohol and/or drugs, random alcohol/drug testing, and installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle.
What else could a first DWI cost me?
In addition to criminal fines and legal costs, there are also administrative sanctions ranging from loss of driver’s license all the way up to vehicle confiscation and forfeiture. Generally, a first DWI will also result in a 90-day revocation of your driver’s license.
Other costs can include:
- Loss of wages (if you were incarcerated)
- Potential loss of job or promotion
- Having the DWI on your criminal record
- Higher vehicle insurance premiums
- Difficulty finding housing
- Costs of alcohol treatment programs
- Costs of installing an IID in your vehicle.
Because of the potentially high costs both criminally and administratively, it is critical that you find adequate legal representation. Do not simply find the first and least expensive attorney out there to represent you. Remember, you get what you pay for, so finding a skilled and knowledgeable lawyer can make a world of difference especially when the stakes are so high.