Differences between Misdemeanor and Felony Drunk Driving Charges

Each year, nearly 28,000 people are arrested for DWI, according to Minnesota Department of Public Safety, and one in seven Minnesota drivers has a DWI on his or her record. Unfortunately, some drivers who are charged with a DWI consider the charge to be a traffic offense and fail to take the charges seriously. In fact, there is much confusion about the nature of a DWI charge and the potential impact of a DWI conviction.

The Minneapolis DWI defense lawyers at Keller Criminal Defense Attorneys focus on defending clients throughout Minnesota who are facing criminal charges, including DWI charges. DWI charges are not a routine traffic offense; rather, DWI charges – even first offenses – are serious criminal charges that carry significant penalties. As such, it is important that you do not take DWI charges lightly and that you understand your legal rights, possible defenses, and the potential impact of a DWI conviction.

Misdemeanor DWI Charges

Most DWI charges are considered to be misdemeanor offenses, but even misdemeanor DWI offenses carry significant penalties. For instance, a first DWI offense could result in a jail time of up to 90 days and fines of up to $3,000, not to mention possible probation, community service, and loss of driving privileges penalties.

Some DWI charges are deemed to be gross misdemeanors, which means that they result in stiffer penalties. For instance, a second DWI violation within ten years is deemed a gross misdemeanor which is punishable by up to one year in jail and fines of up to $3,000.

Felony DWI Charges

One of the primary differences between a misdemeanor and a felony DWI is that a misdemeanor can result in imprisonment of up to one year, whereas a felony is punishable by imprisonment of more than one year.

Under Minnesota criminal statutes, a person can be convicted of first-degree felony DWI in the following situations:

  • he or she is convicted of a fourth (or more) DWI offense within ten years of three or more previous DWIs; or
  • he or she is convicted of a DWI offense and had previously been convicted of a felony DWI crime; or
  • he or she is convicted of a DWI offense and had previously been convicted of a felony-level crime of criminal vehicular homicide or injury (CVO) involving alcohol or controlled substances.

A felony DWI conviction carries a mandatory minimum 180-day jail term and can result in a prison term of up to seven years and/or fines of up to $3,000. A felony conviction of any kind also results in the loss of various personal rights, including the right to vote and the right to bear arms.

Contact a Minnesota DWI Defense Lawyer

If you are facing DWI charges Minneapolis, we have the experience you need to defend you against the charges, protect your legal rights, and minimize the potential DWI penalties. We are familiar with a number of specific issues pertaining to Minnesota DWI charges, including ignition interlock, license plate impoundment, vehicle forfeiture and job loss due to DWI.

Contact Keller Criminal Defense Attorneys at (952) 913-1421 to schedule a free consultation with one of our Minneapolis DWI defense lawyers.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Stay calm and compose after getting accused of a crime but not charged in Minneapolis, MN. Do not discuss the facts of your case with anyone, including your relatives and family members. Hire a criminal defense attorney with a demonstrated record of winning cases like yours. Your attorney will discuss your rights, guide you on how to cooperate with law enforcement within the legal boundaries, and build a solid defense strategy to fight the charges you could face in the future.
Expungement and sealing of records in Minnesota affect how your criminal history appears to government agencies and the public. The main difference between the two legal actions is that expungement permanently removes past arrests, criminal charges, or convictions from private and public databases, while sealing hides the criminal record from the public. Courts, government entities, and law enforcement agencies can access sealed criminal records.
Minnesota recently passed a public safety bill that brings sweeping changes to the state’s juvenile justice system. While minors sometimes run afoul of the law, the juvenile justice system seeks to account for the differences between children and adults. Therefore, while the penalties for adults convicted of crimes focus on punishment, those for juveniles are aimed at diversion and restorative practices.