There are a few topics that just weren’t covered in your ninth grade civics class. For example: misdemeanor vs. felony DWIs.
This topic might have been (understandably) left out of the textbooks, but it’s important information. Here’s a quick tutoring session to get you up to speed:
According to Minnesota law, a felony means “any crime for which incarceration of more than one year may be imposed.” Many DWIs fall into the misdemeanor category. However, in Minnesota, first-degree DWI constitutes a felony charge.
So what’s a first-degree DWI? The short answer: In order to be considered guilty of first-degree DWI in Minnesota, the offender must have a previous record of DWI-related offenses or CVO (criminal vehicular injury or homicide).
We’ve talked before about how aggravating factors (such as having a particularly high BAC or having a child under the age of 16 in the car) can increase penalties for DWI. In Minnesota, these are only aggravating factors for non-felony DWIs. For felony DWIs, your history makes the difference.
Both misdemeanor and felony DWIs can carry serious penalties, but — in the case of felony convictions — the sentence can be much more severe. With prison time on the line, it’s vital that you understand your rights. If you’re facing any DWI charges, make sure you have qualified attorney fighting for you.
Source: Cleary, J. & Pirius, R. (2008). An Overview of Minnesota’s DWI Laws. Research Department: Minnesota House of Representatives. Codified in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 169A.