Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Repeat DWI Offenders in Minnesota

It is common knowledge that Minnesota takes a hard line approach to drunk driving penalties: even first-time offenders can face substantial jail time, fines of up to $3,000 and a heavy smattering of license-related fees once they try to reinstate their driver’s license after a period of suspension. Repeat DWI offenders are raked over the coals to an even higher degree.

Typically, judges exercise discretion in order to tailor criminal sentences to fit the details of the individual offense and take into account any mitigating circumstances. For multiple DWIs, however, much of this discretion has been usurped by legislative action: mandatory minimum sentences established for certain DWI offenses mean that judges have little or no power to deviate from a pre-established set of minimum sanctions when a defendant is convicted on certain charges.

Knowing more about Minnesota’s mandatory minimum DWI sentencing scheme can benefit anyone facing accusations of drunk driving. In addition, the automatic and severe nature of mandatory minimums for DWI highlight the harsh reality about just how important it is to contact a Minneapolis DWI lawyer and fight to get charges dropped or reduced.

Outline of Offense-Specific Mandatory Minimums

Mandatory minimums are a floor, not a ceiling. A complete repeat DWI sentence can, and most often does, include punishment terms in addition to the mandatory minimums. A sentencing court, however, cannot impose a lesser punishment than the minimums outlined in Minnesota statute for a given offense.

There are several types of “administrative” sanctions, like a certain required period of driver’s license revocation, which may be automatically invoked for all types of DWI, including first-time offenses. Some of these administrative sanctions may seem similar to mandatory minimums to the untrained eye. But, while these administrative sanctions may mimic mandatory minimums, true mandatory minimum criminal penalties apply to repeat DWI offenses.

For a second DWI offense committed within 10 years of a prior offense, Minnesota law requires offenders be assigned a 30-day period of incarceration; at least 48 hours of this sentence must be served in a jail/workhouse, and eight hours of community work service must be completed for each day less than 30 served. A third DWI offense within 10 years will result in 90 days of incarceration, at least 30 of which must be served consecutively in a local jail/workhouse. For a fourth offense in 10 years, it is automatically a felony, meaning you lose the right to vote and bear arms. Moreover, the minimums are 180 days of incarceration, with at least 30 days served in a jail/workhouse. Finally, a fifth DWI offense within 10 years will carry at least a one-year sentence, with a requirement that 60 days be completed in a jail/workhouse.

For all repeat DWI offenders, the sentencing court may order that the person spend the non-jail portion of the sentence under remote electronic alcohol monitoring (known as REAM or EHM) or on home detention. As an alternative to the standard mandatory penalties for repeat DWIs in Minnesota, the court may sentence an offender to a program of intensive probation tailored to repeat DWI offenders. Anyone sentenced under this alternative must consecutively serve at least six days in a jail/workhouse, and the court may order that the remainder of the sentence be served on home detention.

Additional Penalties for Repeat MN DWIs

As mentioned, the mandatory minimums are only a floor. The full consequences of a repeat DWI conviction usually encompass many other penalties, including those formalized in the legal process and informal sanctions that often arise as a direct result of DWI offenses.

In addition to jail time (which could be more than the minimums), repeat DWI offenders may face:

  1. License revocation
  2. Mandatory alcohol treatment
  3. Fines and fees
  4. License plate impoundment
  5. Required use of an ignition interlock (and having to pay the expenses that go along with such devices)
  6. Court costs
  7. Higher insurance rates or even an inability to obtain insurance
  8. Trouble retaining or finding a job
  9. Other problems associated with having a criminal record
  10. Possible vehicle forfeiture

The true costs of repeat DWIs go far beyond the mandatory minimum sentences. You should be keenly aware of just how detrimental a second or higher DWI conviction can be to your normal, everyday activities.

The Importance of Retaining a Repeat DWI Defense Lawyer

Oftentimes, those arrested on drunk driving charges have legal arguments at their disposal that can help them avoid stacking another DWI conviction onto their record. Perhaps the evidence used against a defendant was gathered improperly, the police officer made an invalid arrest, there were paperwork errors, there is a strong measure of doubt as to who was truly driving the automobile in question, or the results of the final alcohol test may not be accurate. A multitude of possible legal defenses may help you get charges reduced or dropped.

Considering mandatory minimum sentences and the other tough consequences of a repeat DWI conviction, it is imperative to protect your legal rights as well as your future. If you have been hit with a drunk driving charge, contact a Minneapolis DWI defense attorney today.

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

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