Minnesota DWI & DUI: Frequently Asked Questions

I’ve been charged with a DWI/DUI, now what do I do?

It is imperative that you are represented by someone who can guide you through this very complex and ever changing area of law, so contact an attorney immediately. After going through the initial traffic stop, field sobriety testing, arrest, and testing at the jail/station it is important to get an attorney involved while everything is still fresh in your mind. It is important that all of the facts are documented from your perspective, just like the officer will be documenting his/her observations from the incident. Contact an attorney immediately to help protect all of your rights.

What should I say if a police officer stops me?

There are a number of things that a police officer will look for when detecting drunk drivers and these tend to be; difficulty maintaining proper lane position, making wide turns or weaving or speeding, a lack of vigilance or making dangerous manoeuvres. Police are also looking for cheap reasons to pull people over at night such as equipment violations, lack of wearing a seatbelt, failing to signal at least 100 feet from a turn/lane change, etc.

If a Minnesota police officer notices any of these activities they are likely to pull you over and should this happen, it is important for you to be polite and provide the officer with your registration, insurance card and driver’s license.

It’s worth remembering, however, that you don’t have to answer any questions and do not have to consent to a search of your vehicle or of yourself.

If you do consent to a search, it can present problems for you later in court so if the officer asks you questions, you should simply state that you would like to speak with an attorney before answering any questions.

What is the difference between “DUI” and “DWI”?

In Minnesota there really is no difference nowadays.  In the past “DUI” typically meant “Driving Under the Influence.” This may or may not include a specific alcohol level. All that is required is that the prosecutor show that the driver was impaired by alcohol. “DWI” typically means “Driving While Intoxicated.” Intoxication is usually defined as a prohibited alcohol level (.08 in Minnesota) or with the presence of certain controlled substances in the system.

Many years ago, Minnesota changed its statutes to put both of these terms under the umbrella of “Driving While Impaired” so all incidents are categorized as “DWI” cases. For more information, please go to our Common Terms Used in Drunk Driving Cases page.

What are the penalties for a DWI/DUI?

This will very much depend on the unique facts and circumstances surrounding your case as the courts will take into account the nature of your charge, your BAC level, and whether you have been convicted of similar charges in the past. Penalties range from large fines to, probation, license revocation, court ordered classes, community service, or in the most serious cases, offenders may face jail, workhouse, or lengthy prison sentences.

Can I legally refuse to take a Sobriety Test in Minnesota?

You are not required by law to take field sobriety tests, and it is often not in your best interest to do so as they prove little according to studies which suggest that field sobriety tests are not accurate when it comes to proving impairment beyond a reasonable doubt.

Refusing a sobriety test will almost certainly result in your arrest and you will then be asked to submit to an official evidentiary alcohol test (usually breath but sometimes blood or urine). If this then reveals that you’re under the legal limit, it doesn’t matter that you refused field sobriety testing, whereas if you’re over the legal limit, your sobriety test results might be used against you as evidence in court.

Should I tell my employer if I get a DUI/DWI?

Anyone can be charged with a DWI, but that charge is not the same as being convicted of a crime. Unless you have a contractual obligation of some kind to your employer or a professional licensing bureau, a DWI charge is not your employer’s business and whether you tell them or not is entirely up to you.

If your current job requires government clearance and part of such clearance is a contractual obligation to disclose to your employer if you are charged with a crime, then it’s advisable that you inform your employer that you have been charged.

How long does a DUI/DWI stay on your record?

In most cases, a first-offense DWI in Minnesota is a misdemeanour but can be increased to a gross misdemeanor if the driver refuses to comply with a breathalyzer test, their blood alcohol content is .16 percent or if a child under 16 is in the car at the time of the arrest. A person with 3 prior DWI incidents within 10 years can also be charged with a felony level DWI offense.

After a conviction it is technically possible to get a DWI or DUI off your criminal record under Minnesota’s expungement law, however the courts have been extremely stubborn with this. We have only heard of a small handful of cases where expungement of a DWI was granted for highly unusual and extraordinary situations. Your best opportunity to keep a DWI offense off your criminal record is to retain an experienced aggressive attorney to make the best effort to avoid the conviction in the first place.

Do I lose my license immediately after a DUI/DWI?

Yes, after a 7-day temporary license grace period. You can lose your license because of Minnesota’s Implied Consent Law before you go to court for the criminal case, including a commercial driver’s license. You can also lose your driver’s license in Minnesota due to a DWI or DUI conviction.

A “Notice of License Revocation” mailed by Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety to you or handed to you at the jail on the night of the incident will trigger this license loss and the length of loss can be anywhere from 90 days to a number of years depending on many factors.

However, you may be able to have your driving privileges reinstated by receiving a worker’s permit or other restricted permit while use of an ignition interlock device may also allow you to drive during a license revocation.

Need Help with a DWI/ DUI Charge?

Contact experienced Minnesota DWI defense lawyers Meaney & Patrin who can help you in this difficult time. No matter what degree of DWI or DUI you are charged with, a criminal defense attorney can develop a strategy for defense that will ultimately lead to a favorable outcome. So call us today at 612-223-6595 .