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Minnesota DWI Law FAQ

DWI FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions – Minnesota DWI Law

FAQ: “Should I hire a lawyer for my DWI case?”

Thomas Gallagher, DWI Defense Attorney answers Minnesota DWI law FAQs
Thomas Gallagher, DWI Defense Attorney answers Minnesota DWI law FAQs

This is the most important DWI FAQ.  Yes, it is worth fighting back after a DWI arrest in Minnesota. Why?

High insurance costs follow the five years after a DWI arrest. But the cost of hiring a good DWI defense lawyer is only a fraction of that cost.  We can use Minnesota DWI law to your advantage, to win.

To avoid high-risk auto insurance costs, you must remove all alcohol-related events from your “driving record.”

That means (1) making a legal challenge to the “implied consent” administrative license revocation; and (2) defending the criminal-DWI charge so that no alcohol-related conviction results – both.

You only have 60 days from the date of the license revocation.  In breath test cases that is normally the date of the arrest.

You must serve and file a court challenge to the license revocation within 60 days.  And you’ll need a lawyer’s help with that. If you do it on the 61st day, it won’t do any good. Even one day past 60 days and it will be too late.

You should meet personally with a DWI defense lawyer to discuss the details of your case. And you’ll learn some of the basic strategies for defending these cases.  Attorney Thomas Gallagher offers a free half-hour initial consultation on cases like this. You are welcome to call him at (612) 333-1500

Time is of the essence in these cases.

FAQ: “When is the best time to retain a DWI defense attorney?”

As soon as possible. Why ASAP?

Because you have only 60 days to serve and file a legal challenge to it. You’ll need a good criminal defense attorney to help you with that. If you miss the deadline, or don’t win that case, you’ll have an “implied consent violation” on your license record.  And almost all of the consequences of a DWI conviction, other than jail and probation, result.

As for the criminal-DWI case, prosecutors generally don’t just give away favorable settlement offers to the defense without a reason. The reason they do, when they do, that your criminal defense lawyer identified a good defense issue.

Trust the machine? Space Shuttle Challenger Debris
Trust the machine? Space Shuttle Challenger Debris

For example, the reason for the traffic stop might be helpful to your case. But, only a criminal defense lawyer will be able to identify your best defense issue; after thoroughly reviewing your case.

In the typical DWI case, the police officer initiates both a criminal-DWI charge, and an administrative license revocation.  She will base both on either a “test refusal” or “test” report of 0.08 or more.

These are two, separate legal actions.   One is criminal.  And the other is supposedly “civil.” (This is how they try to avoid the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy.)

In Gallagher’s experience, most people are aware of the criminal DWI court date. But most are unaware of the short filing deadline to fight the administrative license revocation.

FAQ: “What is at stake in a typical first-time DWI case?”

The first question to ask in any legal matter is “what is at stake?” For most first-timers, jail time is unlikely.  In a case with no accident or other aggravating factors, judges rarely sentence much, if any, executed jail time.

Money:  But, having an alcohol-related event on your driver’s license record can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Major cost increases include:

  • high risk auto insurance premiums for minimal coverage,
  • fines and fees, and costs related to having a criminal conviction record,
  • drivers license revocation reinstatement fees,
  • impacts on employment, on health insurance premiums, etc.

The Legal Solution

Retain a good DWI defense lawyer for a court challenge to the license revocation.  If a judge then rescinds it off your driver’s license record, and you avoid an alcohol-related conviction; you’ve won.  This could save you thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of dollars over a five-year period alone.

DWI laws today are complex. Only an experienced, motivated DWI defense lawyer can help you effectively fight and win one of these cases.  And Attorney Gallagher has helped his clients do this many times, for three decades.

DWI FAQ: A DWI can cost tens of thousands of dollars. A lawyer can help avoid that.
DWI FAQ: A DWI can cost tens of thousands of dollars. A lawyer can help avoid that.

Without a good DWI defense lawyer you have no real chance of winning. You can’t win unless you try to win.

A typical first-time DWI case involves two legal cases:

  • the administrative license revocation; and,
  • the DWI-criminal case.

Under Minnesota’s implied consent law, you automatically lose unless you file a court challenge within 60 days.

If you do, only then will you get a hearing in court. There are many, expensive, consequences of having an implied consent violation on your driver’s license record.

In the other, criminal DWI case, most first-time DWI criminal charges are misdemeanors.  Misdemeanors carry a 90 days jail and $1,000 maximum penalty.  But generally first DWIs result in close to no jail time executed and several conditions of probation.  And if we win, you avoid even that.

FAQ: “What if I have a prior alcohol-related incident within ten years?”

A prosecutor can enhance a Minnesota criminal DWI charge to a more serious crime based on prior alcohol-related incidents.

The look-back period for charge enhancement and mandatory minimum sentencing is now ten years.

If the alcohol-related incident is within ten years of the new DWI, the prosecutor can charge an enhanced, Gross Misdemeanor.   And the prior within ten triggers a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days in jail.

The administrative revocation of drivers license under the “implied consent” statute, is also longer and worse with a prior.

FAQ: “What is the difference between DUI and DWI?”

DUI is an acronym for “Driving Under the Influence.” DWI is short for “Driving While Impaired.”

In Minnesota there is no difference.  Both refer to Minnesota Statutes Chapter 169A: “Driving while Impaired.”  While “DWI” seems a better fit; “DUI” is more common through the United States.  Since there is no distinction in Minnesota, here either term may be used interchangeably.

More Minnesota DWI Answers

Answers to more frequently asked questions about Minnesota DWI law:

Minnesota DWI Lawyer main page

Criminal Vehicular Operation page

Minnesota Felony DWI page

Breath-Alcohol Machines in Minnesota page

Urine Testing in Minnesota page

Marijuana DUI in Minnesota page

Detox Release page

Car Forfeiture page

Driving After Revocation page

Article: Countermeasures at a DWI Stop: the Party Question

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Have a question not covered on this DWI FAQ page?  Feel free to call Minneapolis DWI Defense Attorney Thomas Gallagher at 612 333-1500.