Viking fullback Jerome Felton arrested for DWI test refusal

Recently, this blog discussed the issue of bail or bond in driving while impaired cases. One of the newest Minnesota Vikings, Jerome Felton, was released Saturday after posting $12,000 bond in a Hennepin County DWI case. The NFL fullback was reportedly arrested early Saturday and booked into the Hennepin County Jail shortly before 6:00 a.m.

The running back is reportedly accused of refusing to submit to an implied consent alcohol test during the DWI investigation. Minnesota law treats DWI test refusal harshly. Details of the allegations about what went down during the running back’s encounter with police remain sketchy. The media is reporting that Felton is being accused of second-degree DWI test refusal.

A second-degree DWI charge is a gross misdemeanor offense under Minnesota law. A-second degree DWI can bring more severe consequences than a third-degree DWI, which is also a gross misdemeanor.

Typically, a first-time DWI offender may face a third-degree DWI for refusing to submit a breath, blood or urine test under Minnesota’s implied consent and DWI laws, unless other factors are involved. Minnesota’s DWI scheme allows prosecutors to enhance DWI laws based upon allegations of aggravating factors.

Allegations of test refusal can be enhanced to the higher level gross misdemeanor offense –second-degree DWI– if the state alleges that an aggravating factor existed at the time of the alleged DWI test refusal.

Generally a third-degree test refusal case can be enhanced to the higher level gross misdemeanor test refusal case if the state alleges that the driver has a prior qualified impaired driving incident on his or her record within the past ten years, or if there are allegations that the driver had a child under the age of 16 in the car at the time of the alleged DWI offense (an alcohol test reading of 0.16 percent or greater is also an aggravating factor, but one that obviously does not apply in a test refusal case).

A second-degree DWI case can bring greater jail time and higher fines. But it is also vitally important to note that civil and administrative issues grow more complex. A driver’s privilege to drive can be more severely affected from a second-degree DWI allegation, and a second-degree DWI offense can lead to vehicle forfeiture under Minnesota law.

It is important to seek advice from an experienced Minneapolis DWI defense attorney as soon as possible after an arrest. The timeline to challenge a DWI license revocation or potential vehicle forfeiture is short, and if time runs out, any challenge is generally forever lost. In many cases, the time runs out long before a defendant’s arraignment or first appearance in criminal court.

Felton is scheduled to appear for a first appearance on July 18 in Hennepin County Court on the DWI allegations. News reports are not clear what allegations support a second-degree offense in the most recent DWI arrest of a Minnesota Viking.

Felton was signed by the Vikings to a one-year deal in March. The Vikings are aware of the DWI allegations and are not making any public comment, according to 1500 ESPN.

Source: KSTP 1500 ESPN, “Viking fullback Jerome Felton arrested on 2nd-degree DWI charge,” Tom Pelissero, June 2, 2012

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.