Minnesota has a relatively strict DWI policy. A person may be convicted of DWI when in control of a vehicle and with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or more. Technically, a person can be convicted of a DWI for simply being “under the influence,” although convictions are rare, except as part of plea deals. Minnesota has become more aggressive in citing for DWI under the influence of drugs, and law enforcement have developed tactics for detecting marijuana and narcotics.

The good news is that police still need a reason to pull you over. DWI charges can be thrown out if police did not have a good reason to stop you. Consult an attorney to see if this might be possible for your case. You can set up an initial phone consultation free of charge by clicking here to go to the bottom of the page.


Minnesota has four different levels, or degrees, of DWI charges. Each varies in it’s severity and is based on how many aggravating factors are present with each DWI. Aggravating factors include:

  • A blood alcohol content (BAC) of twice the legal limit - .16 or higher - within two hours of driving

  • Each prior “impaired driving offense,” usually other DWI convictions, within the last 10 years

  • Having a child under 16 years of age if you are 3 years or more older than the child

These are the legal factors that can increase the level of severity of a DWI. Fourth degree is the least severe, first degree is the most severe. The factors are cumulative, and each bumps you up a level. So, if you had two previous DWI convictions, you would have a second degree DWI. If you had two previous DWI convictions AND were at or over .16 BAC, you would have a first degree DWI, which is a felony. Here is a little more information about the standard consequences of different levels of DWIs:

  • Fourth Degree DWI - Misdemeanor - potential for 90 days jail and $1,000 fine; up to one year loss of license - realistically, usually a small fine ($400 is common), community service, and rarely any jail time, possible to obtain limited license after 15 days and full license after 30

  • Third Degree DWI - Gross Misdemeanor - potential for 1 year jail and $3,000 fine; up to 2 years loss of driver’s license - realistically a somewhat larger fine, 2 days mandatory jail - usually already served, usually 28 days mandatory home monitoring, community service, can regain license with “ignition interlock” program

  • Second Degree DWI - Gross Misdemeanor - potential for 1 year and jail and $3,000 fine, license cancelled as “inimical to public safety” for 3 years or more - realistically a larger fine, 30 days mandatory jail, then an additional 60 days mandatory home monitoring, “ignition interlock” required to regain driver’s license - forfeiture of vehicle will also almost inevitably happen, though defenses are available

  • First Degree DWI - Felony - potential for up to 7 years jail and a $14,000 fine - realistically loss of license “inimical to public safety,” vehicle forfeiture, a larger fine, 30 days mandatory “probationary” jail, then 150 days mandatory home monitoring, “ignition interlock” usually around 4-6 years - while a person with their first felony DWI may not serve time in prison, the “realistic” consequences are more dependent on the circumstances, and will certainly involve severe penalties, including substantial incarceration

These are basic expectations for each type of DWI. Please note, each case can be different, and this is merely a summary of the key consequences. There may be additional consequences, such as mandatory drug or alcohol treatment programs, victim “impact panels,” or other types of rehabilitative efforts. A person facing a DWI charge will also likely have “no use” of drugs or alcohol as a condition of their release, and may have to report to probation while charges are pending and during post-conviction probation. An experienced attorney can help you negotiate a better deal and walk you through the probationary process


Minnesota has an “implied consent” law, meaning that you agree, as a part of driving in the state, to submit to drug or alcohol testing if pulled over. Failure to do so is a Gross Misdemeanor. However, you have the right to refuse, even though you will be subject to criminal penalties. In many cases, taking the test is advisable. You should, however, contact an attorney if possible before making that decision. Streff Legal receptionists are available 24/7 and will do what they can to connect you with an attorney. Call 612-399-6787 and tell the receptionist that you urgently need to speak to an attorney if you are in custody facing a DWI test.


Set up a free first consult to speak with an attorney about your DWI charge. Use the online system below, or call 612-399-6787 to have a receptionist help you.