I’ve Been Charged With A Felony DWI. What Does That Mean?

This is the fourth post in our series on DWI. If you are looking for information about misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor DWI, please check out our posts on first, second, or third DWI. DUI/DWI at any level is a serious charge in Minnesota. If you were recently arrested for a DWI, you should consult with a DWI Defense Attorney right away to review the specifics of your case.

Every case is unique, and we can’t provide a definite penalty for your charge. In this post we cover the potential penalties typical for felony DWI cases in Minnesota.

First, what is a Felony DWI?

In Minnesota, a felony is any crime where the sentence that may be imposed upon conviction is imprisonment more than one year. Under Minnesota law, First Degree Driving While Impaired is a felony.

First-Degree DWI Offense Criminal Penalties

It is a crime to drive, operate, or be in control of a motor vehicle in Minnesota under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance and/or when a person’s alcohol concentration is 0.08 or more. If you have already been convicted of three or more DWI(s) within the past ten years, you may be charged with a felony if you drive (or operate or control) a motor vehicle with a BAC over .08.

It is also possible to be charged with first-degree DWI if you have had fewer than three prior DWI convictions but have previously been convicted of certain felony criminal vehicular homicide or criminal vehicular operation crimes, or any prior felony DWI.

Because of Minnesota’s implied consent laws, refusal to take a test is a gross misdemeanor, and may be a felony under some circumstances. A test refusal will always be considered an additional charge to a DWI.

Fourth (or subsequent) DWI Offense Criminal Penalties

Alcohol Concentration Level

Offense

Criminal Penalty

Maximum Sentence

.08 or above and/or Refused Test

4th or more (in ten years)

Felony

7 Years in Jail and/or $14,000 Fine

Administrative Sanctions

In addition to criminal penalties, DWI carries administrative, or civil, penalties. Because of the implied consent laws, a driver may be subject to these penalties EVEN IF THEY ARE NOT CONVICTED of a crime unless they TAKE PROMPT ACTION to prevent license revocation, and in the case of a fourth DWI, vehicle forfeiture.

Alcohol Concentration Level

Offense

Administrative Sanction/Penalty/Consequences

.08 or above

and/or Refused Test

4th or more (in ten years)

  • License cancelled as “inimical to public safety”
  • 4-6 years of no detected use of alcohol and/or drugs for removal of ignition interlock device
  • 1 year of a limited license with an ignition interlock restriction upon enrollment in treatment
  • 3-5 years of an ignition interlock restricted driver’s license upon completion of treatment
  • License plates impounded
  • Vehicle forfeited

For more information on what “inimical to public safety” means and ignition interlock, please read our blog on Third DWIs (*NEED LINK).

Revocation (Cancellation) Periods

The license revocation period for a fourth DWI conviction is a minimum of four years. Fifth or subsequent convictions result in a minimum of six years loss of driving privileges. The reinstatement requirements include having ignition interlock installed for the entire period of revocation and having a limited license for the first year of ignition interlock, or until treatment is completed, whichever is longer. A restricted license may be issued after one year of a limited license and completion of treatment, which allows full Class D driving privileges, so long as ignition interlock remains installed. Any failed tests will require the person to start the process over with a limited license and may carry other sanctions, including new criminal charges.

Rehabilitation Requirements

Before a driver whose license has been cancelled as inimical to public safety can be considered for reinstatement, they must maintain (and demonstrate) abstinence for a certain period of time and prove they have completed rehabilitation. The minimum period of abstinence for reinstatement after a first rehabilitation is one year.

You MUST Act Fast to Protect Your Rights

If a peace officer has probable cause to believe you have been driving (or operating or controlling) a motor vehicle, and you fail (or refuse) a blood alcohol test, the commissioner shall revoke/cancel your driver’s license. The revocation period is NOT subject to the state obtaining a conviction. Similarly, on a fourth DWI, the state may forfeit the vehicle driven during the alleged offense.

License revocation and vehicle forfeiture are civil, not criminal, proceedings, and are unrelated to the DWI case. If you do not petition for judicial review within 60 days, you may lose your right to appeal the revocation and/or forfeiture EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT GUILTY.

For this reason, it is imperative that you discuss your case with an experienced DWI Defense Attorney right away to review the specifics of your case and determine a plan of action.

Criminal Vehicular Operation and Criminal Vehicular Homicide

If you have been in an accident involving bodily injury or death while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you may be charged with criminal vehicular operation or criminal vehicular homicide. These are serious felony charges that even a first-time offender could face if an accident resulted in injury or death.

Contact a Minnesota Felony DWI Defense Attorney

Don’t try to face DWI charges at any level alone! Call the experienced and dedicated attorneys at Sieben Edmunds Miller PLLC to have them start working on your case today.

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