How Likely is Jail Time for First DWI in MN? 

For most people, jail time on a first DWI in Minnesota is unlikely. A more definitive answer mainly depends on how serious that first DWI is and the location of where your DWI occurred.

The severity levels of DWIs in Minnesota range from first degree to fourth degree. Most first-time DWIs are Fourth Degree DWIs. These are the least severe DWIs for first-time offenders. A Fourth Degree DWI will occur when the driver’s alcohol concentration level is below .16. This is also the level of DWI for first-time controlled substance related DWIs. Most of these DWIs in the metro area will not result in jail time after plea bargaining with a prosecutor. Commonly, drivers receive stayed / suspended jail time (time hanging over your head) for a probationary period. A Fourth Degree DWI is a misdemeanor offense. Those have a maximum punishment of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Thus, the maximum amount of stayed jail time a person could receive is 90 days. Frequently, a driver will receive 30 days of stayed time on a first-time misdemeanor Fourth Degree DWI.

In some jurisdictions in Minnesota, a driver may have to complete some community service work as part of a Fourth-Degree DWI sentence. There are some counties that may ask for more severe punishment such as jail time, house arrest, or being placed on an alcohol monitor, but you do not encounter that very often. You see that more commonly with Third Degree and Second-Degree DWI cases, which can also happen in a first-time offense.

Third Degree DWI and Second Degree DWI occur in a first-time DWI when there are aggravating factors present. The most common aggravating factor in a first-time DWI for Third Degree DWI is when the driver’s alcohol concentration level was .16 or more. Another frequent way a person a charge for Third Degree DWI occurs for a first-time offense is if the driver refuses to take the breath, blood, or urine test after they have been arrested. These are called evidentiary tests. The most infrequent Third Degree DWI for a first DWI offense is if there was a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle. Second Degree DWIs can occur in a first-time offense if the driver either tests .16 or more on their evidentiary test or refuses to take that test and there is a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle. Both Second and Third Degree DWIs are gross misdemeanor offenses. Gross misdemeanors have a maximum punishment of 365 days in jail and a $3,000 fine.

Second- and Third-Degree DWI cases are more to result in jail time. In the metro area, frequently these cases still result in stayed jail time or jail alternatives. In other jurisdictions, there can be a higher likelihood of jail in these aggravated DWI cases.