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.

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