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DWI in Minnesota: When is it a felony?

It is illegal to operate a vehicle with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more in the state of Minnesota. This is true throughout the country, but each state varies in the penalties that come with a violation. This piece will focus specifically on the penalties connected to a driving while intoxicated (DWI) conviction in Minnesota.

What kind of penalties come with a DWI conviction in Minnesota? Those charged with a drunk driving crime can face both criminal and administrative penalties. Criminal penalties can include use of an ignition interlock device, required enrollment in a chemical dependency treatment program, fines and potential jail time. 

While criminal penalties generally occur after evidence is gathered and the person charged with the crime has an opportunity to provide a defense to the charges, administrative penalties are more immediate. These can include forfeiture of the driver’s vehicle and impoundment of the plates.

Why should I care if I get charged with a felony? Crimes are generally broken down into two different types of charges: misdemeanors and felonies. You should care if you get charged with a felony because they are generally accompanied with more serious penalties.

When it comes to a drinking and driving, a First Degree DWI charge is considered a felony. The penalties for a felony for these types of crimes are noticeably more severe compared to lesser misdemeanors. Monetary fines for a Second Degree DWI, which is considered a gross misdemeanor, can reach $3,000. In comparison, a fine for a felony can reach $14,000 —over four times as much as the gross misdemeanor. Prison sentences are also more severe. A prison sentence for the Second Degree gross misdemeanor can last for one year, while the felony charge could reach up to seven years.  

When does a DWI charge in Minnesota rise to the level of a felony? In most cases, the presence of previous DWI charges are taken into account and can result in a felony charge as opposed to the lower, misdemeanor charges.

Regardless of the type of charge, those who are facing allegations of driving while impaired by alcohol are wise to seek legal counsel. An experienced DWI criminal defense attorney can build a case for your defense to better ensure your legal rights are protected.  

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