Minnesota DUI Penalties for First-Time Offenders

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DUI is one of the driving offenses that many states take seriously. This is rightly so, because many accidents result from drivers driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Driving under the influence in Minnesota is a criminal offense, and the penalties are usually severe.

Not all DWI cases are treated the same. There are several factors that can influence the outcome of your DWI case. If you have been charged with DWI in Minnesota, you should hire a competent lawyer experienced in DWI offenses to handle the case.

Minnesota Blood Alcohol Concentration Limits

The blood alcohol concentration limit in Minnesota is 0.08 percent, the same as in other states. Once a driver is tested and their blood alcohol concentration is measured to be 0.08 percent or above, the motorist will be charged for drunk driving without any other form of evidence.

If, however, the BAC is 0.16 percent and above, the driver will be charged with aggravated DWI. The legal drinking age in Minnesota is set at 21 years. The state has a zero-tolerance law for drivers under the age of 21 who are found to be driving while intoxicated.

“Like other states, Minnesota is stiff on blood alcohol concentration limits,”

says Omeed Berenjian of BK Law Group. “Motorists driving while impaired may face severe penalties that affect various aspects of their lives.”

Minnesota and the Implied Consent Law

The DUI laws in many states allow the drivers allegedly driving impaired to either consent or refuse to take the BAC test. However, things are pretty different in Minnesota.

The state operates the implied consent law. Under this law, all drivers within the state automatically consent to be subjected to urine, breath, or blood test when stopped by law enforcement agencies. This means that they are not required to give consent on the spot, as the law empowers the law enforcement agency to carry out the test even when they object to it.

The driver can still insist on not taking the test when they are stopped. However, doing so may lead to the withdrawal of their driving privileges for up to 1 year.

Penalties for First-Time Offenders

The penalties an offender receives are not only influenced by the offense’s intensity. The number of times the individual has been convicted of such is also a factor that impacts the severity of the penalty. The law makes provisions for penalties for first-time DWI offenders. These penalties can either be administrative or statutory.

#1. Criminal Penalties

Some penalties accompany being convicted of a DWI offense as stipulated by the law. DWI offenses in Minnesota are grouped into four categories – 1st to 4th degrees. Each type has its corresponding criminal penalties based on the severity of the offense. Many first-time offenders are convicted of 4th-degree DWI, which is the lowest category of DUI in the state.

The offender is charged with a misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $100 and a maximum jail time of 90 days. However, a first-time offender can be charged with a gross misdemeanor if the following happens:

  • If the driver’s blood alcohol concentration is 0.16 percent and above
  • If they had a minor passenger that is 16 years and below
  • If the driver outrightly refuses to undergo a chemical test

Although not a felony, a gross misdemeanor has a stiffer punishment than a misdemeanor. Offenders can be sentenced to up to 1 year in jail or fined up to $3,000. An offender may serve jail time after paying the imposed fine in some cases.

#2. Administrative Penalties

Aside from the criminal penalties specified by the law, a first-time offender may also face administrative penalties. The administrative penalties are not dealt with in the criminal proceedings. Instead, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety administers this penalty.

The Department of Public Safety may suspend the offender’s driving privileges for a specified period depending on the severity of the offense. The driver’s license may be revoked for first-time violations for 90 days. If the driver refuses to undergo a chemical test or has a BAC level of 0.16 percent and above, the license may be suspended for up to 1 year.

Other steeper penalties first-time offenders may face are the impounding of their license plates and possible vehicle forfeiture. This is usually the case where the offense qualifies as gross a misdemeanor. If you have a DWI case in Minnesota, you will need a competent lawyer to represent you during the criminal and administrative hearings.

Consequences of a DWI Conviction

A DWI conviction appears on your driver’s record for life. It is one of those records that you cannot expunge or seal. Being convicted of DWI in Minnesota can have overreaching consequences on the driver years after they have finished serving the penalties.

This conviction can damage the driver’s reputation, and they will have to deal with the social stigma of being convicted of an offense. Additionally, if potential employers decide to look up this record, especially if the offender is applying for a driving job, it can negatively impact your employment chances. Some landlords also look up such records, and having been convicted of DWI may make it challenging to find suitable housing.

Also, any criminal conviction of any sort will impact any active immigration case. While the first-time offender who is a permanent resident will not be deported on that account, a DWI conviction will make any immigration application more complex. The sentence would also affect any ongoing child custody case ruling if you had a child in the car while allegedly driving impaired.


Driving while impaired is treated as a serious offense, and the penalties can be severe, even for first-time offenders. Impaired driving has led to accidents, and Minnesota treats it as a criminal offense. Drivers who are charged with DUI should hire the services of an experienced attorney.

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