One question which individuals often ask about their DWI cases is what the worst case scenario is. It bears remembering that an impaired driving conviction usually carries collateral consequences. These are impacts which occur outside of criminal court, and includes license revocation or cancellation, license plate impoundment, and forfeiture.
As a legal matter, the worst thing which could happen in criminal court is that the judge imposes the maximum sentence. The maximum sentence for any given charge depends on the offense level. Regardless of the offense level and in addition to any fines, the court can also impose a penalty assessment of up to $1,000 if the person had an alcohol concentration of 0.16 or more.
Misdemeanor DWI (Fourth Degree)
Gross Misdemeanor DWI (Second or Third Degree)
Felony DWI (First Degree)
Minnesota law provides mandatory minimum sentences for many DWI offenses. However, the minimum sentence depends not on the level of the charge, but on the individual’s prior record. Specifically, it depends on the number of qualified prior impaired driving incidents the person had in the ten years preceding the current offense.
In many cases, there are alternatives to the “mandatory” sentences. Depending on the circumstances, these alternatives may include:
- DWI Court
- Staggered sentencing
- Intensive supervision
- Ignition interlock as a condition of probation
Second Offense (one prior in the past 10 years)
Third Offense (two priors in the past 10 years)
Fourth Offense (three priors in the past 10 years)
Fifth Offense (four priors in the past 10 years)
Other DWI Sentencing Considerations
Chemical Use Assessment
In most cases, when a person is convicted of impaired driving, the court will order the person to complete a chemical use assessment (also called a Rule 25 or a chemical dependency evaluation) and to follow the recommendations of the assessment. Depending on the individual and the offense, the assessment may recommend programming ranging from a few hours of DWI education to inpatient treatment and aftercare. The assessment may recommend that the person participate in a sobriety support group or abstain entirely from the use of alcohol. Violating – or failing to fulfill – these recommendations could violate a person’s probation and result in court sanctions up to and including incarceration. Additionally, assessments, treatment and other programming can be costly. While health insurance is sometimes available to cover or defray the costs, many individuals pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket to comply with these requirements.
In most cases, the court will authorize work release for a person sentenced to jail or house arrest. However, not all individuals will meet the eligibility requirements. For example, the job site generally must be within a certain distance of the facility (often 50 miles), and the individual generally must have transportation. Most facilities have minimum and maximum hours a person can work. Additionally, participation in work release will require the knowledge, cooperation, and supervision of your employer. Finally, work release generally comes with additional costs.
Electronic Home Monitoring
Electronic home monitoring (also called EHM or house arrest) must be approved by the court. In addition, there are eligibility requirements set by the facility. The person must have a stable place to live, and that place often must be within a certain distance of the facility. In many cases, the home must also have touchtone land-line phone service. EHM also typically requires payment of additional fees, though the amount of the fees may depend on financial circumstances, or may be subject to reduction based on financial hardship.
How an Experienced DWI Defense Attorney Can Help
While you can learn quite a bit on the internet, this kind of information is no substitute for the experience and education of a professional advocate. Your DWI defense attorney should:
- Carefully evaluate the facts of your case and the applicable law. This may result in finding a defense you did not realize existed.
- Advise you of steps you can take immediately to lessen the ultimate consequences for your case.
- Assist you in evaluating all the options available for handling your case.
- Advocate for you with the prosecutor and the judge.
- Evaluate and analyze the criminal and collateral consequences applicable to your case.
- Consider alternatives to the “standard” outcome which may be more appropriate for your case.
- Ensure that you understand the immediate and long-term impacts of any agreement you enter.
At F. Clayton Tyler, P.A., our experienced DWI defense lawyers are committed to providing Straight Talk and Honest Answers. Our attorneys handle all aspects of the case – not only the criminal case, but also the implied consent and forfeiture. We represent clients in district court and on appeal or for expungement, probation revocation, or postconviction relief proceedings. Our office is in Minneapolis, and we regularly appear for DWI cases in Hennepin County (Minneapolis, Edina, Minnetonka, Brooklyn Park), Ramsey County (St. Paul, Maplewood), Anoka County (Anoka), Dakota County (Hastings, Apple Valley, West St. Paul), Washington County (Stillwater), and Carver County (Chaska). We also handle felony and appellate cases statewide.
If you are facing a criminal charge, you need professional, personal representation. Our team of attorneys will offer you Straight Talk and Honest Answers about your case.