Minnesota DWI Laws & Penalties

So, you’ve committed a DUI in Minnesota and now you are wondering if you could end up in jail, or just pay fines and lose your driving license for a while. There is no simple answer to your questions. What penalties you’ll receive as a DUI convict or would you get convicted at all depends on several factors, including how drunk you were, did you submit to a chemical test, how many DUI convictions you’ve had before, and others.

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 What is Minnesota DWI Offense?

A DUI, or DWI, in Minnesota, is operating, driving, or being in physical control of a vehicle while:

  • Being under influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Having any amount Schedule I or Schedule II drug in the body, except marijuana, which includes all other drugs
  • Knowingly being under the influence of any hazardous substances that may impair driving abilities

Any amount of alcohol in the blood is not enough to get charged with DUI, however. The law sets limits that your BAC (blood alcohol concentration) has to meet in order to puts you in danger of DWI charges. These limits are:

  •  0.02% for drivers under 21 years of age
  • 0.04% for commercial drivers
  • 0.08% for all other drivers
  • 0.16% or more brings enhanced penalties

If your BAC meets these thresholds, you’ll be charged with DUI
Aside from having a presence of alcohol or drugs in your blood, there are two other types of DUI charges that you can get in Minnesota. They don’t even require you to be drunk.

Implied consent law. According to this law, drivers who operate a vehicle or are in physical control of a vehicle agree to get tested their BAC, therefore they must not refuse a chemical test upon a request of a police officer. If they do, they’ll get charged with DWI anyway.

The police officer must have a probable cause to test you first. That cause may arise from the way you drive, from stoping your vehicle and questioning you, or another way. However, you cannot refuse the test to avoid penalties. There are penalties for refusing a chemical test as well, so that’s not possible.

Open container law. Open containers filled with alcohol beverage are prohibited from vehicles in Minnesota. It doesn’t have to be in possession of the driver. Even if the driver doesn’t drink at all and a passenger in the vehicle has an open container with them, the driver will be charged with DWI.

What Are the Penalties for DUI/DWI in Minnesota

Penalties for DUI conviction in Minnesota are serious. You’ll pay a hefty fine and lose your driving license for a while and even may end up spending some time in jail. Punishments vary from case to case depending on:

  • How many DUIs you’ve committed before
  • How much alcohol you had in your blood
  • Did you submit to a chemical test or refused it
  • Was there a child under the age of 16 in your vehicle while driving under the influence
  • Are you a commercial driver or not
  • Are you a driver under the age of 21 or not

Regarding how many DUIs you have committed before, it is important to know that the washout period in Minnesota is 10 years. It means that only your DUI’s from the last 10 years count as subsequent DUIs. As soon as 10 years pass from a previous one, it doesn’t count anymore.
Depending on all these factors, a Minnesota DUI convict can be punished as follows:

First Minnesota DWI Offense

The first Minnesota DWI offense is a misdemeanor. The penalties depend on the BAC level. For a BAC between 0.08% and 0.15% the penalties are as follows:

  • up to 90 days in jail and/or $1000 in fines
  •  Driving license suspension of 90 days with a possibility of reducing it to 30 days upon pleading guilty of DWI
  • Mandatory chemical dependency assessment on the expense of the offender

There is a possibility for getting a restricted driving license after 15 days of suspension if the offender agrees to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle, or for no suspension at all if the driver chooses to install an ignition interlock device right from the beginning of the suspension.
If the driver’s BAC level is 0.16% or more, he or she faces the following penalties:

  • up to 1 year in jail and/or $3000 fine
  •  a driving license suspension of 1 year or 1 year of driving with a restricted driving license and an ignition interlock device
  • Mandatory chemical dependency assessment on the expense of the offender
  • Impounding of license plates
  • A possibility for vehicle forfeiture, but only if license plates are impounded

Second Minnesota DWI Offense

Your second Minnesota DWI offense penalty also depends on the BAC. For a BAC between 0.08% and 0.15% you can expect the following penalties:

  • Up to 1 year in jail and/or $3000 in fines, with a minimum incarceration of 30 days of which at least 48 hours must be served in jail or a workhouse and 8 hours of community service for each day less than 30 days served
  • A driving license suspension of 1 year or having a restricted driving license with an ignition interlock device for 1 year
  • Mandatory chemical dependency assessment on the expense of the offender

If your BAC is 0.16% or over, the penalties become more severe:

  • Up to 1 year in jail and/or $3000 in fines, with a minimum incarceration of 30 days of which at least 48 hours must be served in jail or a workhouse and 8 hours of community service for each day less than 30 days served, which is the same as for lower BAC
  • A driving license suspension of 2 years or having a restricted driving license with an ignition interlock device for 2 years
  •  Impounding of license plates
  • Forfeiture of the vehicle

Third Minnesota DWI Offense

The first Minnesota DWI offense is a misdemeanor as well. Unlike the first and the second one, the penalties for this one are the same no matter what your BAC is:

  • Up to 1 year in jail and/or $3000 in fines, with at least 90 days incarceration from which at least 30 days must be served consecutively in a local jail or workhouse
  • Canceling of the driving license with the possibility of getting a restricted driving license for 1 year upon enrollment in an alcohol dependency treatment and 2 years upon completion of the treatment
  • Mandatory chemical dependency assessment on the expense of the offender
  • Impounding of license plates
  • Forfeiture of the vehicle

Minnesota Felony DWI Offense

The fourth Minnesota DWI offense in 10 years or any subsequent DUI offense in a lifetime is a felony. It is punishable by:

  • A jail of up to 7 years and/or fines of $14,000, with at least 180 days incarceration from which at least 60 days must be served consecutively in a local jail or workhouse
  • Driving license canceling with the possibility of 4 to 6 years of having a restricted driving license – 1 year upon enrollment in a treatment program and 3 to 5 years upon completion of the program
  • Mandatory chemical dependency assessment on the expense of the offender
  • Impounding of license plates
  • Forfeiture of the vehicle

Minnesota DWI Penalties for Drivers Under 21 Years of Age

The state of Minnesota is harsh towards young drivers who drive while intoxicated. If the driver is under 18 years of age, he or she will lose the driving license automatically and will have to start the process of getting a new license once he or she reaches 18 years.

For drivers between 18 and 21 years of age, the laws and penalties for older drivers apply. Unlike in many other US states, in Minnesota, there are no different penalties for them.

It is important to note that for the purposes of sanctioning underage drivers, the law considers that the person has turned 21 on their 21st birthday at 8 am. If the person wanted to celebrate the night before and is caught driving with a BAC of 0.02% or over, they’ll get DUI charges.

Minnesota DWI Penalties for Commercial Drivers and School Bus Drivers

In addition to all other penalties, holders of a commercial driving license will have it suspended if convicted for DWI of any vehicle, whether commercial or not. If they drive hazardous materials, the suspension is 3 years. Their second DUI offense leads to a permanent CDL suspension.

A school bus driver must not have any amount of alcohol in their organism while driving. If they get caught with any, in addition to all other penalties, they’ll lose the endorsement for driving a school bus. That will allow them to drive any other vehicle, but not a school bus.

Minnesota DWI Penalties for Chemical Test Refusal

The implied consent laws were made to encourage drivers to take the chemical test, so it comes as no surprise that a test refusal leads to increased penalties. If you refuse a test upon request of a Minnesota police officer, you’ll get punished as follows:

 Test Refusal as a First DWI Offense Minnesota

  • Up to 1 year in jail and/or $3000 fine
  • Driving license suspension of 1 year, with the possibility for getting a restricted driving license after 15 days of suspension if the offender agrees to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle, or for no suspension at all if the driver chooses to install an ignition interlock device right from the beginning of the suspension
  • Mandatory chemical dependency assessment on the expense of the offender

Test Refusal as a Second DWI Offense Minnesota

  • Up to 1 year in jail and/or $3000 in fines
  •  A driving license suspension of 1 year or having a restricted driving license with an ignition interlock device for 1 year
  • Mandatory chemical dependency assessment on the expense of the offender
  • Impounding of license plates
  • Forfeiture of the vehicle

Test Refusal as a Third DWI Offense Minnesota

  • Up to 1 year in jail and/or $3000 in fines
  •  Canceling of the driving license with the possibility of getting a restricted driving license for 1 year upon enrollment in an alcohol dependency treatment and 2 years upon completion of the treatment
  • Mandatory chemical dependency assessment on the expense of the offender
  • Impounding of license plates
  • Forfeiture of the vehicle

Test Refusal as a Fourth DWI Offense

The penalties for the fourth or any subsequent offense are the same whether the driver submitted to a test or not.

Reinstating Your Minnesota Driving License

After serving your sentence and suspension you can reinstate your driving license and drive freely again. To do so, you need to go to your local DMV office and do whatever is required depending on your particular case. In general, you’ll need to:

  • Pass a DWI knowledge test
  • Complete a Minnesota driving license application if necessary and pay the fees
  • Complete a chemical assessment program
  • Pay a reinstatement fee of $680
Additional Minnesota DWI resources you may need:

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