Monday, April 27, 2009

Minnesota DUI DWI Laws - A Layman's Guide

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Impaired (DWI) can have serious consequences - not only for the victims, but often for the perpetrators of the crimes. Penalties can be as light as a minimum probation period and as much is seven years in prison with a fine of up to $14,000.

It is therefore essential to acquaint yourself the basics of Minnesota's DUI/DWI laws and penalties to ensure that you not only know your rights, but stay on the right side of the law. What Is a DUI/DWI Crime?

The law states that it is unlawful, and therefore a crime, for any person to be in control of a motor vehicle while impaired within the state of Minnesota, be it on land or on water. Impairment is defined as any one or a combination of the following:

1. Driving or being in control of a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol. It is important to note that there are two separate limits of blood alcohol concentration (measured as grams of alcohol per 100ml of blood, 210L of breath or 67ml of urine) that apply here:
2. Drivers of non-commercial, private, vehicles may not exceed the 0.08 blood alcohol concentration limit.
3. Those individuals who operate (control or drive) commercial vehicles are restricted to 0.04.
4. Driving or being in control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance as listed in schedule I & II.
5. Driving or being in control of a motor vehicle while purposely being under the influence of a substance that affects any bodily system and/or function that could impair driving ability.

Do take note that tests for these substances are performed by analyzing breath, blood and/or urine. It is also unlawful to refuse any of these tests as consent is implicitly granted when operating, controlling or driving a motor vehicle within the boundaries of Minnesota.


After being convicted of a DUI/DWI crime in the state of Minnesota, the individual in question may be sentenced according to a classification of his or her crime. These classifications are defined by law and are often determined by accompanying aggravating factors. Said aggravating factors may include the following:

* a previous conviction for the same offense within the last ten years immediately preceding the current offense.
* having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.20 for up to two hours after the offense.
* having a child below the age of sixteen within the same vehicle at the same time when the offense was committed and if that child is more than 36 months younger than the offender.

The classification system works as follows:

Fourth-Degree Driving While Impaired

Description: A fourth-degree DWI offense is considered as a misdemeanor.

Penalties: Criminal penalties for a misdemeanor include a maximum jail sentence of 90 days and/or a $1,000 fine. However seeing as misdemeanors are often considered low-level crimes, the penalty may only include a period of probation and a fine.

Third-Degree Driving While Impaired

Description: Should an individual be found guilty of DWI with the accompaniment of one aggravating factor or if he or she should refuse to submit to a chemical test, it is considered a third-degree DWI offense and also a gross misdemeanor.

Penalties: For a second offense or a refusal to submit to a chemical test without any accompanying aggravating factors, the minimum penalties include a minimum period of 30 days incarceration, of which at least two should be served at a local correctional facility or eight hours community service for each day less than the minimum 30-day incarceration period. Do note that the minimum sentence may be waived by a court of law should specific conditions allow, however a sentence proportional to the crime (influenced by previous criminal convictions and moving traffic violations) will be imposed.

In addition, a court may sentence an offender to participation in an electronic alcohol monitoring program for a minimum of 30 consecutive days per year of the probationary period in the event of a stayed sentence and only if the necessary equipment is available to the court. The offender will also be liable for the costs of his or her participation in the electronic monitoring program up to an amount he or she can afford.

Second-Degree Driving While Impaired

Description:A second-degree DWI classification is defined as a DWI offense with two or more accompanying aggravating factors or a refusal to submit to a chemical test with a single accompanying aggravating factor.

Penalties: Should the offense be the second committed within ten years of a previous qualified DWI conviction, then the same penalties as above may apply. However, should it be a third DWI conviction within ten years of the first being committed or the crime of refusing to submit to a chemical test with one accompanying aggravating factor, then penalties that may apply include a minimum of 90 days incarceration of which at least 30 have to be served consecutively and/or an intense program of supervision following a period of incarceration. The court may also sentence an offender to not more than 60 days of home detention or participation in an intensive probation program. In addition, an offender may be ordered to participate in an electronic alcohol monitoring program as described under (Third-Degree Driving While Impaired).

First-Degree Driving While Impaired

Description: If a person commits a DWI offense within ten years of the first of three prior qualified DWI offenses or has previously been convicted of a first-degree driving while impaired offense or directly causes the death or at least injury to another person as a result of driving while impaired, then he or she is guilty of first-degree DWI.

Penalties: The penalties here include a maximum 7-year incarceration period and/or a maximum $14,000 fine. Factors that may influence the courts decision on sentencing depend on the amount of previous DWI convictions committed within ten years immediately preceding the current offense as well as other criminal and moving traffic violations.

**Do note that it would be unwise to use the information above as part of any legal procedure. Accurate and up to date information can be obtained from the appropriate authorities in the state of Minnesota**
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