Twin Cities Area Drunk Driving Defense Lawyer
Drunk driving is one of the most common offenses in Minnesota. Every year, more than 30,000 people in the state are arrested for driving while impaired, or DWI (some also refer to this as “DUI”).
However, do not allow the fact that the charge is common lead you to believe that it is not serious. A DWI conviction carries severe penalties, both criminal and administrative, especially if it is not your first offense in the past 10 years. There are a number of defenses that may apply to you that could lead to charges being reduced or dismissed.
Apple Valley DWI Lawyer
Skilled defense attorney James Blumberg will fight for you if you face drunk driving charges in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. As a former prosecutor with the Dakota County Attorney’s Office, James Blumberg understands how the other side works, and puts that knowledge to work as an Apple Valley DWI defense lawyer. He will work with you on payment. Call today at (952) 431-7758 to set up a free consultation.
Based in Apple Valley, James Blumberg Law serves clients throughout Dakota County, including Burnsville, Eagan, Hastings, Inver Grove Heights, Lakeville, Mendota Heights and Rosemount, as well as anywhere in the Twin Cities region, including Hennepin County, Ramsey County and Anoka County.
Information About Drunk Driving Charges
- The Driving While Impaired Offense in Minnesota Law
- Per Se Impairment
- Criminal vs. Administrative Penalties
- Penalties Increase with Subsequent Offenses
- Other Aggravating Factors in a DWI Case
- Defenses to DWI Charges
- Minnesota DWI Resources
The Driving While Impaired Offense in Minnesota Law
Minn. Stat. 169A.20 makes it a criminal offense to drive, operate or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of:
- A controlled substance;
- Any hazardous substance that affects the brain, nervous system, muscles or anything necessary to operate a motor vehicle; and
- Any combination of these things.
A person is considered under the influence if his or her normal faculties are impaired due to the use of alcohol or drugs.
It is also illegal to operate a number of other motorized vehicles while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including:
- All-terrain vehicles; and
- Off-highway motorcycles and off-road vehicles.
Per Se Impairment
Under the law, a person is also legally considered impaired regardless of whether his or her faculties are impaired if he or she has an alcohol concentration at or above 0.08. The number refers the number of grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood (blood alcohol concentration, or BAC), 210 liters of breath or 67 milliliters of urine.
This is called a “per se” DWI. If a driver refuses a breath test, he or she could face a gross misdemeanor charge and lose his or her license for a year for a first offense.
An alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher is a criminal offense. However, higher alcohol concentrations can have stiffer penalties. If a person’s alcohol concentration was twice the legal limit, 0.16, he or she will face tougher administrative sanctions, such as license suspension, license plate impoundment and vehicle impoundment. An alcohol concentration of 0.20 or higher means tougher criminal penalties.
If you are a commercial driver, you may be convicted of DWI if your alcohol concentration was 0.04 or above.
A person is also per se impaired if there is any amount of Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substances in his or her blood. These substances include heroin, LSD, methamphetamine and cocaine. These drugs can stay in your system for days or longer, meaning you can face DWI charges well after the substance’s physiological effects have passed.
Marijuana is excluded from this “per se” requirement. However, you can still be arrested and charged with a DWI due to marijuana or Schedule III or below prescription drugs if officers determine you are impaired. Officers may use a drug recognition expert (DRE).
Criminal vs. Administrative Penalties
Under Minnesota law, there are both criminal and administrative sanctions for driving while impaired. Criminal sanctions include jail, probation and fines once a person is convicted or pleads guilty.
Administrative sanctions, however, are considered civil and do not require a conviction. They take immediately upon arrest. Administrative sanctions can include:
- Driver’s license revocation or cancellation;
- License plate impoundment;
- Vehicle impoundment; and
- Requirement of ignition interlock device installation.
Administrative sanctions can be challenged in either an administrative review or a judicial review, but the defendant must request the review and within a certain period of time. Your attorney can assist you in requesting the review and represent you in the process. It is vital to act quickly after an arrest to preserve your options.
Penalties Increase with Subsequent Offenses
There are four “degrees” of DWI. Fourth degree driving while impaired is the lightest charge, while a first degree is the harshest. One of the most important factors in determining the severity of the charge is the number of prior DWI convictions has had in the past 10 years.
A fourth degree DWI is a charge in which there are no aggravating factors. Since a prior DWI conviction is an aggravating factor, this means the person being charged has had no convictions in the past 10 years.
Each conviction is a separate aggravating factor. If one aggravating factor is present — one conviction, for example — the offense becomes a third-degree DWI, a gross misdemeanor. This could apply to a person’s second DWI charge. Two aggravating factors is a second degree DWI, a gross misdemeanor.
If a person has three or more convictions for driving while impaired in the past 10 years, he or she is charged with first degree DWI, a felony. Escalating punishments is one reason to fight every drunk driving charge.
Other Aggravating Factors in a DWI Case
Prior convictions are not the only aggravating factor. Having an alcohol concentration of 0.20 or higher is also an aggravating factor. If for example, you have no prior convictions but have a BAC above 0.20, then you have one aggravating factor and can, therefore, be charged with a third-degree DWI.
Having a child younger than 16 in the vehicle at the time of the arrest is also a major aggravating factor.
The aggravating factors work together to increase the severity of the charge. For instance, if you have one prior offense three years ago, have your 15-year-old child in the car and are accused of having a BAC of 0.22, then you have three aggravating factors and would be charged with felony DWI.
Defenses to DWI Charges
A failed DWI test does not necessary mean a conviction. Far from it, in fact. Prosecutors must prove every element of a DWI beyond a reasonable doubt, like any other crime. In a DWI arrest, there are many steps a police officer and a prosecutor must take, and any mistake could lead to the charges being dismissed.
Police must have reasonable suspicion to pull a person over. Reasonable suspicion is an articulable set of facts that would lead a person to believe criminal activity is afoot. It cannot be a “hunch.” For instance, if a driver is weaving in and out of lanes, it often constitutes reasonable suspicion that the driver is intoxicated. What does not, however, is that the driver was near the Warehouse District in Minneapolis when bars were closing.
If police did not have sufficient reasonable suspicion to pull a driver over, the entire stop could be thrown out.
Any type of DWI test, from a chemical test to a field sobriety test to the determinations of a drug recognition expert, must be precise. Any mistake in conducting the tests, any mishandling of the evidence or any mistakes in the calibration or cleaning of the equipment could lead to evidence being dismissed.
Minnesota DWI Resources
Minnesota Statutes Chapter Concerning DWI — Read more information about the Minnesota laws regarding charges for driving under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance or a combination of substances. These statutes also outline the penalties associated with each offense.
Driver and Vehicle Services — This is a division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety dedicated to helping drivers in the state manage their vehicle registration, license plates and driver’s license information. Drivers also can check the status of their driver’s license.
Ignition Interlock Device Program — In some instances after a DWI conviction, drivers could be eligible to participate in the Minnesota Ignition Interlock Device Program through the Department of Public Safety. Learn more about the program and how to apply.
James Blumberg Law – A Drunk Driving Defense Attorney in Dakota County, MN
As a former Assistant Dakota County Attorney, James Blumberg is familiar with how prosecutors build their cases and knows the pitfalls of drunk driving prosecution. He will go after these weaknesses and build the strongest possible case for you, both on criminal and administrative matters. If you face a DWI charge in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, including Dakota County, Scott County, Sibley County, Rice County, Olmsted County, Dodge County, and Carver County. Call Apple Valley DWI lawyer James Blumberg today. Call (952) 431-7758 to set up a free consultation.