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Common Questions About Minnesota DWI / DUI Laws

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When you've been arrested for a DWI/DUI in Minnesota -- in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities metro area, or elsewhere -- and you don't think it's fair, you need an experienced DWI/DWI attorney.

Understanding the Ramifications of an Arrest for Driving Under the Influence
Were you recently arrested for driving under the influence? While you may still be recovering from the shock of your arrest, there are a variety of legal considerations that are critical to understand. This article will assist you in navigating Minnesota DWI laws and emphasize some of the things that you need to know immediately.


There is often confusion about the actual charge. That’s because Minnesota DWI laws have changed several times in the last decade. Originally, the statute about drunk driving was entitled “Driving While Intoxicated”. The state legislature believed that this placed an extraordinary burden on the police to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, the statute was changed to “Driving Under the Influence” (DUI). Again, the legislature changed the statute in 2001, stating that the wording continued to make the charge too difficult to prove. The crime is now termed “Driving While Impaired” (DWI). While the terms DUI and DWI are used interchangeably, the correct term is “Driving While Impaired” (DWI). At any rate, you can see from these “title changes” that the State of Minnesota is very serious when it comes to prosecuting such offenses.

Multiple Charges?

Following your arrest for driving under the influence, it is likely that you were actually charged with many different DWI-type violations. You may be wondering why it was necessary to charge you with multiple counts. Essentially, Minnesota DWI laws allow each count to be viewed as a method of committing a violation. When it comes to the sentencing phase of the process, these charges are used to determine the length and severity of the sentence, as well as whether the charge is a misdemeanor, a gross misdemeanor, or a felony.

At the time of arrest, you were probably charged with one or more of the following:

  1. Driving While Impaired (DWI)
  2. Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) over .08%.
  3. Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) over .08% within 2 hours of driving; or
  4. Refusal to submit to testing.

At the time of sentencing, a person can only be convicted of one of the above offenses. The other offenses will be dismissed. The fact that you were not charged with the violation that the officer initially pulled you over for (speeding, weaving, etc.) does not mean that the DWI charge is invalid or that you cannot still be prosecuted for the more minor offense. Also, the fact that you may have been charged with crimes falling outside the DWI statutes does not mean that you are likely to escape additional consequence for those. For example, in addition to DWI offenses, you may be charged with something such as Fleeing a Police Officer or Leaving the Scene of an Accident or Driving After Cancellation. In these situations, you are facing separate, additional sentences of incarceration and/or other punishment. An experienced DWI attorney will know whether the law allows the sentences for such other offenses to be served consecutively (one after another) or concurrently (punishments running “at the same time”).

Should I Fight?

 People may tell you that it is no use fighting a DUI charge. Indeed, whether or not you believe that you are guilty of driving while impaired, your prosecution may seem very “cut and dried” to you. However, understanding the nuances of DWI law is a very complex process. There are criminal consequences and civil ones as well. Most non-lawyers --- and even “non-DWI” lawyers --- do not understand that there are two (2) separate legal “arenas” involved n a DUI. Each has differing standards of proof and legal issues, although there is “overlap”. An expert attorney with experience in DWI defense can help you immeasurably in each arena. You are no doubt facing the loss of your license, jail time, a criminal record, probation, court-ordered education, treatment, etc. and thousands of dollars in increased insurance costs. Many people lose their very livelihoods as the result of a DWI.

A zealous attorney will defend you and investigate the actual driving under the influence arrest.  Did the police have constitutional grounds for the initial stop? Was there probable cause for a DWI arrest? Were you properly advised of your rights? Experienced attorneys will also ascertain whether the testing was accurate or in any way hindered by the police.

Whether this was a one-time bad decision in your life or yet another crisis as the result of continuing bad decision-making and/or chemical dependency, an experienced DWI attorney will be able to help you immeasurably.

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