Is a DWI a Felony in MN?

In Minnesota, it is illegal for a person to operate, drive, or be in physical control of a vehicle while they are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol or they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or more. In most cases, driving while impaired (DWI) is a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor offense. Such instances include when a person is impaired and aggravating factors are present. Depending on the circumstances, the crimes are referred to as second-, third-, or fourth-degree driving while impaired.

A DWI becomes a felony (called first-degree driving while impaired) when certain factors are present. Because this is considered a more serious offense than a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor DWI, the penalties are much harsher.

Factors that Elevate a DWI to a Felony in Minnesota

There are three instances in which a DWI becomes a felony. These include when the driver:

  • Has committed a fourth or subsequent DWI offense within 10 years of their previous driving while impaired conviction;
  • Has a previous felony DWI conviction; or
  • Has a previous felony conviction for criminal vehicular homicide or injury while under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Whereas misdemeanor DWI charges are elevated because of aggravating factors, such as having a BAC of .16 or more or a child in the vehicle at the time of the offense, such factors do not affect the charge for a felony DWI. Only the circumstances listed above can trigger a felony DWI.

The Penalties for a Felony DWI

As mentioned earlier, the penalties for a felony DWI are much steeper than those for a misdemeanor. However, that's not to say that a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor DWI penalties aren’t stiff – a person convicted of a first offense can spend up to 90 days in jail and/or pay a fine of up to $1,000, or, if an aggravating factor was present, they could spend up to 1 year in jail and/or be fined up to $3,000.

Still, when it comes to a felony DWI, the punishments increase substantially.

The criminal penalties for a felony DWI include:

  • Imprisonment for up to 7 years, and/or
  • A fine of up to $14,000

A person convicted of a felony DWI may also be subject to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of up to 3 years. The judge may decide to stay this mandatory sentence; however, other sanctions must be imposed, such as jail or probation, as well as alcohol monitoring.

Additionally, if a person is convicted of a DWI and sentenced to prison, they are not eligible for early release until they complete a chemical dependency program.

Criminal penalties aren't the only that apply in a felony DWI case. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety may also impose sanctions for an offense, and these can apply even before the criminal case is resolved.

Possible administrative penalties include:

  • Driver's license suspension for 4 to 6 years
  • License plate impoundment
  • Vehicle forfeiture

If you've been charged with your first or subsequent DWI in Minneapolis, it's crucial to get aggressive defense on your side to fight the accusations. At Brockton D. Hunter P.A., we can provide the legal representation you need. Call us at (612) 979-1112 or contact us online today.