Understanding When You Could Face a Felony DWI/DUI Charge

Minnesota law spells out four degrees, or levels, of DWI/DUI. They range from fourth-degree, which is the least serious, to first-degree, which is the most serious If you’re facing DWI charges in Minnesota, you’ll need to understand what makes them a felony.

When Can You Be Charged With Driving While Intoxicated in Minnesota?

You could face DWI charges if you drove, operated or were in physical control of any motor vehicle:

  • While under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance (drugs)
  • While having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher (.04 or higher if you were driving a commercial vehicle)
  • While having any amount of a schedule I or II substance in your system, except marijuana

You can be charged with DWI no matter what kind of vehicle was involved. People can be charged for DWI related to motorcycles, cars, boats, snowmobiles, four-wheelers and any other kind of motorized vehicle. 

What Makes a DWI a Felony?

Most DWI charges in Minnesota are misdemeanors. A first or second DWI is a misdemeanor that carries a possible sentence of up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, plus a driver’s license suspension.

A third DWI is a gross misdemeanor, carrying penalties of up to a year in jail and $3,000 in fines. A first or second DWI can become a gross misdemeanor if the driver’s BAC was 0.16 or above or if there was a child in the vehicle or if the driver refused a chemical test.

The only circumstances when a driver will be charged with a first-degree felony DWI are:

  • When the driver has a prior felony DWI on their record
  • When the driver has a prior felony-level conviction for vehicular homicide involving alcohol or drugs
  • When the driver has three or more impaired driving-related incidents on their record in the past 10 years

Once a person has a first-degree felony DWI on their record, all future DWIs will be felonies, no matter how many years pass between offenses.

Penalties for Felony DWI in Minnesota

All DWI cases involve a set of criminal penalties and a set of administrative penalties. In Minnesota, the criminal penalties, if you are convicted of felony DWI include:

  • A mandatory minimum of three years in prison with a maximum of seven years of possible prison time
  • Fines of up to $14,000

The main administrative penalty for first-degree DWI is that your driver’s license can be suspended, possibly for up to four years. This suspension can be extended if you continue using alcohol or drugs.

In some situations a driver’s license can be completely revoked. You may also need to have whiskey plates put on your vehicle. 

Fight Felony DWI Charges with Help From Our Elk River Defense Lawyers

First-degree DWI/DUI charges in Minnesota are extremely serious. Make sure you have an experienced lawyer on your side to protect your rights. And never plead guilty without talking to an attorney first. 

The experienced DWI defense lawyers at White & Associates in Elk River can help. Call us today at 763-241-0477 or send us a message for a free initial consultation.

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