The Minnesota DWI Guide

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For Attorneys



Minneapolis and St Paul




Minnesota Statutes 169A



Judicial Review

Administrative Review

Driver and Vehicle Services




I just got arrested for a State of Minnesota DWI charge.  What happens now?


ISSUE ONE:  The Minnesota Implied Consent Proceeding:  Under Minnesota implied consent law, any person who drives, operates, or is in physical control of a motor vehicle within this state or on any boundary water of this state consents to a chemical test of that person's blood, breath, or urine for the purpose of determining the presence of alcohol, a controlled substance or its metabolite, or a hazardous substance. The chemical (breath, blood, urine) test may be required of a person when a police officer has probable cause to believe the person was committing the crime of driving while impaired.  See MN Statutes 169A.51.


Pursuant to this implied consent law, your Minnesota license (or your right to drive in Minnesota if you're not a Minnesota licensed driver) was most likely revoked for anywhere from 90 days to one year for failing or refusing a chemical (breath / blood / urine) test.  This revocation typically starts on the seventh day following your arrest.  Read your paperwork carefully.  If you act quickly you may be able to apply for administrative review or judicial review of the proposed revocation.


Speak to your Minnesota DWI lawyer for more information about contesting your implied consent revocation. 



ISSUE TWO:  The Minnesota DWI Criminal Case:  Separate from the implied consent revocation is the criminal charge for Driving While Impaired (DWI) or Refusal to Submit to Chemical Test.  Under Minnesota law, it is a crime for you to drive, operate, or be in physical control of any motor vehicle when:


(1) you are under the influence of alcohol;
(2) you are under the influence of a controlled substance;
(3) you are knowingly under the influence of a hazardous substance that affects the nervous system, brain, or muscles of the person so as to substantially impair the person's ability to drive / operate the motor vehicle;

(4) you are under the influence of a combination of any two or more of the elements named in (1) - (3) above;
(5) your alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time, or as measured within two hours of the time, of driving / operating / being in physical control of the motor vehicle is 0.08 percent or more;

(6) the vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle and your BAC at the time, or as measured within two hours of the time, of driving / operating / being in physical control of the commercial motor vehicle is 0.04 percent or more; or

(7) your body contains any amount of a controlled substance listed in schedule I or II, or its metabolite, other than marijuana.

It is also a crime to refuse to submit to a chemical (breath / blood / urine) test.  The refusal to submit criminal charge is essentially treated the same as a DWI for sentencing sake.

Minnesota law categorizes DWI offenses by degree from Fourth to First.  Fourth Degree DWI is the least serious and First Degree DWI is the most serious.  More on these DWI levels is set out below.

Important:  The implied consent revocation proceeding and the criminal DWI case are completely separate from one another. 


Will my Minnesota driver license be revoked / suspended?


RELATED TO ISSUE ONE ABOVE:  Your Minnesota driver license (or your right to drive in Minnesota if you do not have a valid Minnesota license) may be revoked in the implied consent revocation proceeding for failing or for refusing a breath, blood, or urine test for alcohol and / or drugs.  Again, you may challenge this revocation if you make a timely appeal.



RELATED TO ISSUE TWO ABOVE:  If you are convicted of the DWI charge, you will also lose your license (or your right to drive in Minnesota if you don't have a valid Minnesota license) for a time.  This revocation is separate and distinct from the implied consent revocation.  Talk to your Minnesota DWI attorney for possible revocation lengths for your situation.



Also keep in mind that your license can be revoked / suspended for a variety of reasons unrelated to a DWI / refusal to submit arrest e.g. excessive tickets, etc.


I have a Minnesota commercial driver license (CDL).  What happens to my CDL?


A Minnesota DWI conviction results in a one year suspension of your commercial driver license regardless of whether you were driving a commercial vehicle at the time.  [If you were driving hazardous materials at the time of your DWI arrest a conviction will result in a three year CDL suspension.]  A second DWI conviction will result in a permanent revocation of your Minnesota CDL.

What happens if I get caught driving while my license is revoked?


Driving while your license is revoked should be avoided as it is a new misdemeanor offense.  Penalties include fines and possible jail time.


I really need to drive.  Will I be able to get a restricted / limited / occupational / conditional / probationary permit?


You may apply for a limited license to drive to and from work, to chemical dependency treatment, to provide for the educational, medical, or nutritional needs of you or your family, or to attend postsecondary educational classes.  However, there is a waiting period before you may apply for the limited license.  For your first DWI, you must wait 15 days.  The waiting period increases with each subsequent offense or if your BAC was 0.20 percent or more.

A restricted license (allowing driving with the installation of an ignition interlock device) may also be available to you.  Ignition interlock devices are discussed more below.


What is the difference between a DUI, DWI, OWI, OUIL etc.?


These terms are all acronyms that refer to the offense commonly known as "drunk driving."  Different states have different names for the crime.  For example, in Washington State the charge is known as driving under the influence or DUI.  Wisconsin uses the acronym OWI; Oregon uses DUII.  Minnesota law refers to "driving while impaired" so the acronym DWI is commonly used here.  This website uses the terms DWI and DUI interchangeably. 


Is a DWI offense in Minnesota a misdemeanor or felony charge?


In Minnesota, a DWI is usually a misdemeanor crime.  However, a First Degree DWI offense is a felony charge.  Refer to the chart below.


What type of penalties might I face if I am convicted of an Minnesota DWI charge?


Upon conviction of an Minnesota DWI offense, a defendant can receive a variety of penalties including alcohol treatment / education.  A range of minimum penalties is set forth below: 



no aggravating factors present
  • fines;
  • jail possible but not required.
aggravating factor present
gross misdemeanor
  • fines;
  • for a second conviction w/in 10 years, the court must impose at least 30 days custody time with at least 48 hours of which to be served in jail and 8 hours of community service for each day less than 30 days served.
Two or more
aggravating factors present
gross misdemeanor
  • fines;
  •  for a third conviction w/in 10 years, the court must impose at least 90 days custody with at least 30 days to be served consecutively in jail.
prior impaired driving incidents w/in past 10 years
  • substantial fines;
  • for a fourth conviction court must impose at least 180 days jail with at least 30 days to be served consecutively in jail.
Note 1:  "Aggravating factors" include:  (1) a qualified prior impaired driving incident within the ten years immediately preceding the current offense; (2) having an alcohol concentration of 0.20 or more as measured at the time, or within two hours of the time, of the offense; or (3) having a child under the age of 16 in the motor vehicle at the time of the offense if the child is more than 36 months younger than the offender. 

Note 2: 
A prior “impaired driving incident” includes any prior DWI convictions (including juvenile offenses and out of state DUI / DWI convictions) and any prior implied consent revocations.

Note 3:  Speak to your Minnesota DWI attorney about what license revocation or cancellation you face upon conviction.

Will my defense lawyer be able to plea bargain / negotiate my Minnesota DWI charge down to another (lesser) offense?

Possibly.  Any experienced Minnesota DWI lawyer will attempt to negotiate with the prosecution on the client's behalf.  Sometimes, your only option will be to plead guilty to the charge or take your case to trial.

Will a Minnesota DWI conviction go on "my driving record?"

Yes.  A DWI conviction will go on your Minnesota driving record and will stay on your record for at least 10 years.  You cannot expunge a Minnesota DWI conviction.

Just how much jail / prison time will I have to do if I am convicted of a DWI in Minnesota?

The amount of incarceration (jail or prison) received will depend on a number of factors, including (but not limited to) the following:

•  your prior driving record especially your DUI history (including any DUI's outside of Minnesota);

•  your level of intoxication / BAC (BAC of 0.20 or greater can generate greater penalties);

•  whether there was an collision involved;

•  whether there was injury to another person in the crash;

•  which Minnesota county or court your case is in;

•  what judge you are sentenced by;

•  whether there was a passenger / child in your car (especially a child passenger under 16 and at least three years younger than defendant driver);

•  whether the judge feels you have accepted responsibility for your actions.


I am licensed to drive in a state other than Minnesota and I was cited for a DUI / DWI in Minnesota.  Will my driver license be revoked or suspended?

Minnesota only has the authority to revoke your right to drive in the State of Minnesota.  However, Minnesota and 44 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted an agreement known as the "Driver License Compact."  Minnesota will report a driving while impaired conviction to the home state of the driver (assuming the home state has also adopted the Compact).  Your home state will then generally take action to suspend or revoke your license.

This also works in reverse.  If you are a Minnesota licensed driver and you are convicted of a DWI / OWI / DUI charge in another state, Minnesota will revoke your license if it learns of the conviction. 

Will I have to install an Ignition Interlock Device on my car?


A ignition interlock device (IID) is a breath alcohol measurement device that is connected to a motor vehicle ignition.  In order to start the motor vehicle, a driver must blow a breath sample into the device which then measures alcohol concentration.  If the alcohol concentration exceeds the startup set point on the interlock device, the motor vehicle will not start.  The device also requires the driver to blow into the device at periodic intervals while driving in order to prevent cheating. 


Minnesota implemented a state wide IID pilot program in the summer of 2009.  This program allows individuals who have had their licenses revoked due to multiple DWI convictions to get their licenses back earlier (a restricted license) if they agree to install an IID in their vehicle.  Using an IID will enable a driver to drive to and from work, attend substance abuse treatment sessions and AA meetings and keep appointments with the court and probation department.  The table below was prepared by the State of Minnesota to help you determine how much sooner you may drive by installing an IID in your vehicle.


minnesota ignition interlock information

What will a Minnesota DWI do to my insurability?

If your insurance company finds out about your DWI conviction one of two things are likely to happen.  Either your Minnesota insurer will raise your insurance rates or you may be cancelled or non-renewed. 

What is an SR-22 / Financial Responsibility Insurance?

An SR-22 is a form from an licensed insurance company certifying that you have purchased liability insurance that meets the minimum required coverage limits.  The SR-22 provides proof to the the state's DMV that you are insured.  If you cancel your insurance or the insurance company cancels your policy before your suspension period is over, the company must notify the DMV. 

Minnesota does not require filing of an SR-22; however, if you get convicted of a DWI in Minnesota and live out of state, your home state may require you to file and maintain an SR-22 in order to get your license reinstated.

Are there special concerns for licensed pilots who get an Minnesota DWI?


Yes.  The FAA has special reporting requirements for certain Motor Vehicle Actions including Minnesota DWI convictions and certain implied consent license suspensions.  Learn more here.

I missed my court appearance.  What do I do now?

Failing to appear (FTA) for court is to be avoided.  When you miss a court appearance, bad things follow.  At a minimum, the Minnesota court typically issues a warrant for your arrest (known as a bench warrant).  You may also face a new criminal charge.  See Minnesota Statutes 609.49.  Talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.  Often, your only option is to turn yourself in on the outstanding warrant.  A new court date will then be scheduled.

Can I represent myself in court on my Minnesota DWI or other criminal charge(s)?

Yes.  You have an absolute constitutional right to represent yourself on any criminal charge no matter how serious including an Minnesota DUI charge.  Keep in mind that Minnesota DUI defense is a complex area of the law as shown by the information in this website.  If you cannot afford to hire your own DWI lawyer, you definitely should apply for a court appointed attorney.  You have no right to court appointed counsel at any implied consent license proceeding.

Copyright 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009

Websites, including this one, provide general Minnesota DWI information but do not provide legal advice or create a lawyer / client relationship.  General information cannot replace legal advice about your case, problem, or situation.  Consult qualified Minnesota Drunk Driving - DWI lawyers / attorneys for advice about any specific problem or Minnesota DWI that you have.  Minnesota attorneys are governed by the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct.  This website may be considered an advertisement for services under these Rules.  Information contained in this website is believed to be accurate but is not warranted or guaranteed in any way.  No lawyer associated with this website is specialized or certified in any way.  This site is not a solicitation for attorney services; rather, it is a purely informational website.  MN DWI FAQ's.  2013.


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