First of all, what happens to my driver’s license if I get a DWI?
Short answer: it gets revoked – you lose it.
Lawyer’s answer: it depends. It depends on whether it is a first-time offense; whether your alcohol concentration was between .08 and .15 or .16 or more; whether you had a controlled substance I or II in your system; whether you refused to take a test; and whether you have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). It also depends on whether you want to challenge your license being taken away and what county your offense occurred in.
A good place to start understanding this process is to look at your “Notice and Order of Revocation”. Typically, this is an electronic form that states when you cannot drive (seven days after the arrest) and for how long. It will also tell you what you need to do to get your license reinstated. But most importantly, at the bottom of the form it explains how to challenge your driver’s license revocation. The two options are requesting an administrative review and a petition for judicial review.
Administrative reviews are pointless, unless there is an egregious error in the revocation, such as the calculation of the revocation period is inaccurate or your alcohol concentration level was entered incorrectly.
Most DWI attorneys worth their salt will suggest the petition for judicial review. You have thirty days from being served the Notice and Order of Revocation to file a petition for judicial review. This gets the matter into court to challenge significant legal issues as it pertains to your case. A judge decides the case and the Attorney General’s Office represents the Commissioner of Public Safety. This is a much more fruitful endeavor than the administrative review. If you believe the officer did not have a proper basis to stop your vehicle, have probable cause to arrest you, or the test results were evaluated incorrectly, then challenging your license revocation with a petition for judicial review (a.k.a. Implied Consent Petition and Hearing) is what you want.
Why would I want to challenge my driver’s license revocation? The most significant reason to challenge your driver’s license revocation from a DWI arrest is because the license revocation alone can be used to make another DWI more severe in the next ten years. It is a quasi-criminal proceeding in the sense that your potential future criminal liability will be enhanced if you do not get the revocation rescinded, regardless of what happens in your DWI criminal case. The prosecutor could dismiss your DWI case in criminal court, you could get arrested for a DWI the very next day, and it they would treat it as your second DWI, if the driver’s license revocation was not challenged and successfully won.
Further, a driver’s license revocation alone can impact your insurance and will be permanently on your driving record. Again, this can happen regardless of what happens in your criminal DWI case. Also, some counties, such as Hennepin and Ramsey, allow you to petition the court for a temporary reinstatement of your driver’s license (technically, your driving privileges) if you file a petition for judicial review. This allows you to get back driving on the road while your case is ongoing and protects your presumption of innocence instead of facing the civil penalties before you even have a court appearance.
Even if you believe you are dead to rights in your DWI case, it still makes sense to consider challenging your driver’s license revocation. It is possible to get the revocation lifted, or lessened, through the process. If you do not try, then the revocation often sticks as initially imposed in most circumstances.
For a free consultation, please contact the Ambrose Law Firm, PLLC at 651-800-4842 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robert H. Ambrose is a criminal defense attorney St. Paul, MN and Minneapolis. The National Trial Lawyer’s Organization named him a Top 40 Under 40 Trial Lawyer for the past three years; Super Lawyers named him a Rising Star in 2016; and he is part of the National College of DUI Defense. DUI lawyers St. Paul; Criminal Defense Lawyer St. Paul; and Minnesota DWI lawyers.
 Assuming you received a Notice and Order of Revocation.