Minnesota Enacts Tougher Penalties For Repeat Offenders

The Minnesota legislature passed Drake’s Law in May 2016, a measure that increases the penalties for repeat DWI offenders.

May 27, 2016 – St. Paul, MN—The Minnesota House turned tragedy into optimism earlier this month with the unanimous passage of HB 71, also known as Drake’s Law. The law was named after Drake Bigler, a baby who was killed by a drunk driver in 2012. The legal community and victims’ groups praised the legislature for taking a tougher stand on DWI penalties.

Drake’s Law gained traction quickly in the legislature because the drunk driver had several convictions for DWI on his record. Despite these prior convictions, the man served only three years for killing Drake Bigler. This is the second time Drake’s Law has been proposed in the legislature. A previous attempt in 2014 did not succeed.

Under the new law, punishments will increase for drivers who commit vehicular homicide within ten years of a previous drunk driving conviction. Repeat offenders now face 15 years in prison for a DWI offense that caused bodily harm or damage to property, instead of ten.

When asked about the changes, Max Keller, a St Paul DWI lawyer, responded positively. “Harsher penalties for repeat offenders and ignition interlock devices for first time offenders are excellent moves to protect the public safety. They may not be a perfect solution, but keeping even one drunk driver off the road is worth the effort.”

Critics of the law claim the measure does not go far enough. Other states in the region already have much harsher laws, including Wisconsin where vehicular homicide carries a penalty of up to 40 years and Nebraska, where the penalty is more than 25. Supporters see the bill as a necessary measure to start the conversation about revisions to Minnesota’s repeat DWI laws.

The bill will now move forward for Governor Dayton’s signature, a move expected in the coming weeks.

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-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. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Involve a criminal appeal attorney soon after you learn the prosecution is appealing your sentence. Your attorney will walk you through the involving and confusing sentencing guidelines. An attorney's involvement will also help you develop a defense strategy for the appeal.