Misdemeanor and Felony Impaired Driving Arrests Spike in Minnesota

After years of seeing a steady decline in impaired driving arrests across the state, Minnesota has seen a five percent increase within the last year.

Impaired Driving on the Rise

In 2019, the number of Minnesota impaired driving arrests spiked, increasing arrests by 5 percent from the previous year. According to reports, 28,000 Minnesota drivers were cited for some type of impaired driving in 2019, and many were arrested on misdemeanor and felony charges. According to state officials and law enforcement, the rise in Minnesota DWI arrests is contributed to a rise in drunk driving, as well as a rise in the use of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and opioids.

In 2006, the number of impaired driving arrests reach a peak of 42,000, then declined over the next 10 years before beginning to rise again. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety attributes the recent rise in arrests to vigorous efforts of law enforcement and changes in state laws. Department officials credit law enforcement with improved methods for detection and arrests of impaired drivers, particularly drug-impaired drivers. 

According to the department’s public safety data, between 2013 and 2017 the number of arrests for drug-impaired drivers was 78 percent higher than in previous years. Prior to 2018, police making DWI stops were required to determine the specific substance impairing a driver before they could make an arrest. Recent legislative changes have made it easier for police to make arrests by determining impairment on the scene.

DWI Penalties

Minnesota DWI arrests can be classified as misdemeanor and felony offenses, depending on aggravating factors including the level of impairment and number of injuries caused by the DWI.


Offenders who have no aggravating factors will be charged with a 4th-degree misdemeanor with fines up to $1,000 and possible jail time up to 90 days. A 2nd-degree or 3rd-degree offense is classified as a gross misdemeanor which carries harsher punishments, fines up to a $3000 and jail time up to one year.


Offenders who have at least three aggravating factors will be charged with a felony DWI in Minnesota. Classified as a 1st-degree felony, offenders will face severe penalties including fines up to $14,000 and possible jail time up to seven years.

In Minnesota, DWIs are serious offenses that require a criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis who can fight for reduced criminal charges and participation in state programs that may help to minimize or avoid jail time.

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

Confidential informants may provide integral information to help build criminal investigations, but how reliable is that information when they are receiving payment for their services? To protect them, state law requires the identity of informants be kept confidential. For those facing criminal charges, however, this creates challenges in questioning the accuracy and validity of the information given at trial.
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.