In 2004, a Minnesota man drove drunk and caused an accident that led to the death of three brothers. According to CBS Minnesota, the man served six years in prison and, upon release, had to participate in speaking engagements that educated people about the effects of drunk driving. Earlier this year, however, the man was pulled over just south of Minneapolis on suspicion of drunk driving. He blew a 0.19 on a breath test and was arrested.
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As any DWI lawyer in St. Paul knows, this man could face a lengthy prison sentence and strict administrative penalties if he is found guilty. Minnesota law makes it clear that repeat drunk driving offenders will encounter harsh penalties.
According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, law enforcement arrest upward of 30,000 people every year for driving while intoxicated. Upon conviction, these people face both criminal and administrative offenses. The DPS points out that people with multiple DWI offenses over a 10-year period could encounter the following consequences from a criminal perspective:
- For a second offense in which the person’s blood alcohol concentration was under 0.20, the defendant could face a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 90 days in jail.
- For a second offense in which the blood alcohol concentration was at or above 0.20, or for any third offense, the defendant could receive a gross misdemeanor charge that carries with it up to a year in prison and up to $3,000 in fines.
- For any fourth offense, a defendant will be charged with a felony and face up to seven years in prison and up to a $14,000 fine.
Criminal DWI convictions will remain a part of people’s records for the rest of their lives. This can have a serious effect on finding employment and suitable housing, especially when the charge is a felony. Convicted felons also lose some of their constitutional rights, such as owning firearms.
The consequences do not end at criminal sanctions. In fact, for some people, the administrative penalties for DWI can be far more inconvenient. According to the DPS, anyone convicted of multiple DWI charges will have to forfeit the vehicle and their license plates will be impounded.
The administrative penalties for people with two drunk driving offenses are based on their blood alcohol concentration. For those with a BAC of less than 0.16, they may choose between an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicles and a restricted license for one year or a total loss of driving privileges for that timeframe. A BAC of 0.16 or over merits the same choices but extends the timeframe to two years.
As a DWI lawyer in St. Paul has seen, those who have three DWI convictions will have their license canceled because they have been deemed “inimical to public safety.” These defendants will have to enroll in a treatment facility. While there, they will have one year of a limited license with the use of an ignition interlock. After treatment completion, they will have two years of an ignition interlock with a restricted license.
A fourth offense will also mandate a canceled license and treatment enrollment, during which the defendant will have one year of a limited license and an ignition interlock. Once they complete treatment, they will face between three and five years of an ignition interlock and a restricted license. Fifth or subsequent offenses will result in at least years of lost driving privileges.
The above penalties give judges some leeway when handing down a sentence. When there are aggravating factors present, a defendant could face the maximum penalties available under the law. For example, a second DWI offense alone may be classified as a misdemeanor that carries with it up to 90 days in jail.
However, if a child was in the vehicle, the crime is categorized as a gross misdemeanor, which could mean up to a year in prison. Additionally, if the defendant caused an accident that led to property damage or the serious injury or death of another person, prosecutors could bring more severe charges.
Minnesota’s implied consent law dictates that anyone who is arrested on suspicion of drunk driving must submit to a chemical test of either the blood, breath or urine. The test will be administered within two hours of the time someone was last driving. Refusing to take the test will have consequences, including automatic revocation of the driver’s license.
Just like the above penalties, the repercussions of refusing a test grow more serious with multiple offenses. Someone with no prior convictions face a one-year license revocation after refusing a test. However, anyone with prior convictions will have to add that one-year timeframe to any current license restrictions. People with two or more DWi convictions who refuse a test will automatically face a gross misdemeanor charge.
Reinstating a license
After completing the punishment, many people convicted of multiple DWI offenses are able to resume full driving privileges. However, as the DPS points out, any alcohol-related loss will present a few additional steps to getting a license back. People will have to take a chemical health assessment and a DWI knowledge test. Additionally, they will have to pay hundreds of dollars for license reinstatement in addition to the fees associated with a new driver’s license application.
There are defensive arguments that can preserve a defendant’s rights, including the person’s freedom and driving license. Anyone with questions about this matter should consult with a DWI lawyer in St. Paul.