Drivers who get behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can face serious charges in the state of Minnesota. Minnesota drivers can be arrested if they are suspected of driving under the influence (DUI), even if an officer doesn’t administer a breathalyzer test.
Minnesota’s DUI arrest statistics are relatively low compared to the rest of the country, but these cases are not exactly rare. The state’s law enforcement officials made over 20,000 DUI arrests in 2020 alone.
If you were accused of driving under the influence, understanding Minnesota traffic laws and how to navigate the charges can help you make an informed decision about your defense and the best course of action for your situation.
What Is a DUI?
DUI is an acronym for “driving under the influence.” It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state, including Minnesota. A Minnesota driver can be arrested for drunk driving if a law enforcement officer believes they are intoxicated while behind the wheel — even without corroborating evidence from field tests (breathalyzers, field sobriety tests, blood tests and urine tests). However, making charges stick can be difficult without evidence.
A driver can be charged with DUI in Minnesota if the following conditions are met:
- Driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher (determined by breathalyzer results)
- Driving under the influence of any controlled substance or hazardous drug
- Having any amount of scheduled drugs, except marijuana, in the body
Minnesota’s Four Degrees of DUI Charges
Since there are no DUI protocols at the federal level, each state establishes and upholds their own DUI laws and penalties. In Minnesota, there are four degrees of DUI charges — each with their own aggravating factors and penalties. While the first degree is more severe than the fourth, no degree of a DUI conviction is mild in the state of Minnesota.
- First Degree DUI Charge – A first degree DUI is a felony that can negatively affect all areas of a person’s life, including their ability to get a job or even get housing. In order to be convicted of a first-degree DUI charge, a driver must have previously been arrested for drunk driving four or more times, received a previous felony DUI charge or faced other drug or alcohol-related criminal charges.
- Second Degree DUI Charge – A second degree DUI is a gross misdemeanor that cannot be expunged from your record for a minimum of four years after the incident. A person can be convicted of a second-degree DUI charge if they have a BAC of 0.16 or higher, were driving under the influence with a minor in the vehicle or charged with another DUI in the last decade.
- Third Degree DUI Charge – A third degree DUI is also considered a gross misdemeanor on a driver’s record. A person can be convicted of a third-degree DUI charge if they meet at least one aggravating factor listed under the second-degree charge or if they have refused to comply with a field sobriety test.
- Fourth Degree DUI Charge – A fourth degree DUI is a gross misdemeanor. Although it’s technically the lowest level DUI, it can still negatively affect a driver’s life and their record. A person can be convicted of a fourth degree DUI charge if they were driving while intoxicated and no other aggravating factors were present.
What Are the Common Penalties of a DUI Charge in Minnesota?
Depending on the severity of the charge (i.e., degree) and the aggravating factors involved, a person charged with a DUI in Minnesota can expect to face some or all of the common DUI penalties.
- Various costs including fines and assessment fees
- A jail or prison sentence ranging anywhere from 30 days to seven years
- Driver’s license suspension
- Ignition interlock device (IID)
Faced With a DUI Charge? Schedule a Consultation With a Minnesota DUI Lawyer
Navigating a DUI charge can be overwhelming, especially if you attempt to do it alone or rely on over-worked public defenders. Recruiting an experienced DUI defense lawyer to advocate on your behalf can help lighten the load and potentially result in more competent advocacy.
One of our referral counselors at the Minnesota Lawyer Referral and Information Service (MNLRIS) can connect you with a local DUI lawyer that possesses the knowledge and experience necessary to represent you. Give us a call at (612) 752-6699 for more information.