• June 4, 2012

As a Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney, I get quite a few calls about DWIs.  Minnesota has some of the strictest DWI laws in the country and the best way to handle a DWI arrest or charge can be quite confusing.  I get many referrals from other attorneys whose clients are facing DWIs wanting to know what they should do and what will happen to them.  If you have a client that runs into DWI trouble, here are five things to know about DWI laws in Minnesota:

1.  The best way to beat a DWI is to prevent it.  Honestly, you’ll have the best chance of beating a DWI if you avoid it in the first place.  Minnesota’s legal limit is 0.08 — which could be as few as 2 or 3 drinks depending on the person.  I’ve had a number of cases where the person didn’t feel intoxicated or show any signs of impairment but tested above 0.08.  If you feel impaired at all, don’t drive — wait it out or have someone else take you home.  Be aware that a police officer can stop you even if you don’t show signs of intoxication.  A minor traffic violation is enough to pull you over and investigate.

2.  Don’t give statements but don’t refuse the test.  One of the most confusing parts of DWI law is that refusing the DWI test allows the State to prosecute you as if you had tested over 0.20.  I always tell my clients not to give statements to the police that they could use against you (such as the fact that you’d been drinking).  However, make sure that you take the alcohol test.  It is usually your best option to challenge the arrest later, even if you fail the test.

3.  DWIs are enhanceable offenses.  Minnesota has four degrees of DWI.  They start out small and get progressively harsher.  There are two common ways that a DWI charge will be enhanced: 1) prior DWIs within 10 years and 2) testing over 0.20 (or refusing a test).  Just because your first DWI wasn’t too bad, don’t think your next one will be treated similarly.

4.  There are criminal and civil penalties.  Most people I talk to aren’t aware that a DWI charge results in criminal and civil proceedings against you.  The criminal charge concerns what will go on your criminal record and whether you’ll do any jail time.  The civil side could result in your license being revoked, your car receiving whiskey plates, or your vehicle being forfeited and sold at auction.  In addition, you only have 30 days from the date you receive the notice of civil penalties (usually the date of arrest) to bring a challenge in court.  If you don’t, you lose your option to challenge it before a judge.  Often, the 30 days will expire before the first court date in the criminal matter.

5.  A Minnesota DWI lawyer can help with the procedural defenses.  Minnesota DWI cases rarely come down to innocence or guilt at trial.  Rather, most cases are thrown out on procedural challenges such as whether the police stopped you properly or correctly administered the DWI test.  A Minnesota DWI lawyer can help evaluate the strength of these challenges and put you in the posture to get the best resolution.

Although DWIs can bring stress and uncertainty, I can often help my clients get through them with as little impact as possible to their other aspects of life (work, family, etc.).  If you have further questions about DWI charges or laws you can reach me at (651) 998-9660, eric@ricedefense.com, or ricedefense.com.

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