How Long Does a DWI Stay on Your Record

Under Minnesota DWI law, a DWI conviction stays on the convicted person’s record for the rest of his or her life. In short, a DWI arrest and conviction will forever remain on the record of anyone whose DWI case ends up with a conviction. It is a permanent mark. The conviction can prevent the person from securing a job because some employers may consider a DWI conviction as showing a lack of sense of responsibility and a signal of potential alcoholism and addiction.

DWI convictions and other criminal records are revealed on all types of background checks. Minnesota potential employers have a right to disqualify a potential employee based on his or her criminal record. Anyone facing a DWI charge should work with a Minneapolis DWI lawyer with a record of delivering favorable outcomes on DWI cases. The lawyer must know the rules and procedures to follow to get the DWI charge and arrest removed from the client’s criminal record. 

Minnesota DWI Records 

A Minnesota DWI will appear in at least three places: a criminal record, a driving record, and an insurance record. Potential housing providers and employers can see a DWI on a person’s criminal record. Renting a house or finding employment can be an arduous task for a person with a conviction.

A DWI arrest and conviction will also show up on the driving record. The good news is that most would-be employers rarely look at this record unless operating a vehicle is one of the requirements in the job posting. The bad news is that a DWI stays on a person’s driving record for the remainder of his or her life. 

DWI arrests and convictions also appear on a convicted driver’s insurance record. The length of time that a DWI remains on an insurance record varies from one insurance company to another. Some companies track it longer than others. Insurance companies generally consider the length of time after the DWI conviction. 

Insurance costs often increase dramatically after a DWI arrest and conviction. Insurance companies gradually lower these costs as the driver rebuilds his or her driving record over time. 

DWI Expungement in Minneapolis and Minnesota 

As of 2015, Minnesota statutes allow DWI arrests and convictions to be expunged from a person’s criminal record. The charges that qualify for expungement range from petty misdemeanors and misdemeanors to gross misdemeanors and some felonies.

Courts in Minnesota typically categorize a first DWI offense as a misdemeanor. The courts elevate the charge to a gross misdemeanor if the offender refuses a Breathalyzer test, if the blood alcohol content (BAC) of the offender is .16 or more, or if a minor (under 16) was in the vehicle at the time of the arrest.

Following a DWI conviction, the convicted person must fulfill specific requirements before filing for an expungement. The person will have to complete the entire sentence, including jail time, fines, probation time, ignition interlock device requirements, and alcohol education. The person also needs to have no new criminal convictions, including DWI arrests, at least two years after the DWI conviction. Getting a DWI expunged from the record is a time-consuming and costly process. 

Look-Back Period for DWI Convictions in Minneapolis and Minnesota 

Minnesota law classifies DWI as an enhancing charge. The outcome is that a person with more DWI convictions on record will face more stringent penalties for each successive crime and conviction. For instance, if a person received a DWI conviction in 2019 and then got another DWI conviction in 2022, the person will face harsher punishments for the second conviction, even if the first conviction got removed from that person’s record. 

The penalties are even much harsher for a DWI vehicular homicide. This felony offense attracts up to $20,000 in fines and/or a jail time of 10 years. It also results in loss of driving privileges and other hidden consequences, such as loss of professional license, difficulties in securing employment and renting a house, and loss of firearm possession rights. 

The prosecution, however, doesn’t look at every DWI conviction on the accused person’s record. The state law considers only DWI convictions that have happened in the past ten years. This time limit is called the state’s “look-back” period. 

Over time, the 10-year look-back period causes a reduction in the repercussions of a future arrest or conviction. It, however, doesn’t remove the DWI conviction from the convicted person’s criminal and driving record. 

Fighting DWI Charges in Minnesota 

Due to the long-term consequences of a DWI conviction, aggressively defending against DWI charges is a wise decision. Anyone facing a DWI charge can avoid a DWI conviction with quality representation. A lawyer can review the case and identify issues that can help the defendant build a solid defense strategy.

Common DWI Defense Strategies

DWI cases in Minnesota have two common defense strategies. The first strategy involves questioning the legality of the police stop. A police officer must have a justifiable and articulable reason to believe that a law has been broken before stopping a driver. A defense lawyer may look at the facts of the case and file a Motion to Suppress Evidence, especially in a case with no legal grounds for the police stop. 

The second strategy involves questioning the validity of field sobriety tests. The instructions, administration, and performance of these tests must remain the same all the time for them to be deemed a correct predictor for signs of impairments. A DWI attorney can have the results of these field sobriety tests excluded by demonstrating that the tests weren’t administered properly. The attorney can also prove that the investigating officer lacked the relevant qualifications to administer the test. 

A DWI carries long-standing consequences for any arrested individual. Expungement options and a 10-year look-back period may be helpful, but they aren’t enough. Avoiding a DWI conviction by aggressively fighting the charge with the help of a DWI defense attorney in Minnesota can put defendants in a better position.

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

Any mistake during the early stages of your interaction with the legal system can result in serious, lifelong consequences. Immediate access to a 24-hour lawyer for criminal defense in Minneapolis, MN, can help calm the situation and improve the likelihood of a desirable outcome.
The criminal defense process in Minnesota constitutes several steps, starting with investigations and culminating with appeals. This process can be long and exhausting. An arrest alone can leave you scared, confused, and overwhelmed with emotions. Making logical decisions in this state can be difficult, especially if it is your first time interacting with the criminal justice system.