What is First Degree DWI in MN?

First Degree DWI is a felony in Minnesota. It is the highest level of DWI in Minnesota. A first offense felony DWI has a maximum sentence of up to seven years in prison and a $14,000 fine. A first offense felony DUI in Minnesota does not mean a person will automatically go to prison. If the person has a criminal history score of zero, then the person will often receive a stayed prison sentence with the potential for local county jail time in a worst-case scenario. If it is the driver’s second felony DWI, then they will likely encounter a presumptive commit to prison according to the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines.

Another way a person can be hit with a Felony First Degree DWI is for a fourth DWI in ten years. Importantly, all prior DWIs do not need to be DWI convictions in the past ten years. Driver’s license revocations (implied consent matters) stemming from a DWI arrest can be enough to count as a prior designated offense. A first-time felony DWI invokes amandatory minimum sentence. The minimum sentence is 30 consecutive days in jail and 150 days of electronic home monitoring. It is possible to avoid mandatory minimum sentences in some circumstances. Notably, if you receive a stayed sentence, then it is still possible for you to go to prison if you violate the terms of your probation. If you do not violate your probation, however, and successfully complete your probationary term, then you are unlikely to ever go to prison for your case. If you violate your probation, then you will be subject to a probation violation hearing. There, arguments can be made to try and keep you out of prison.

If the driver has a prior felony DWI conviction, then they will face a presumptive commit to prison according to the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines. If convicted, there is a minimum prison sentence of 36 months. This can often be higher with a criminal history score above zero for at least another felony on the person’s record. Felony DWIs can also occur if you have a prior felony Criminal Vehicular Operation conviction according to the felony first degree DWI statute. Because of the potential prison time, the defendant is likely going to challenge the case in pre-trial motions and potentially trial. Your DWI attorney should make an in-depth review your case for potential legal issues. Your DUI lawyer may also be able to work out a plea negotiation with the prosecutor to keep you out of prison. Another avenue is your defense attorney can motion the court for a departure to keep you out of prison. For this, you need to prove substantial and compelling circumstances that show you are amenable to probation or treatment. Getting a chemical dependency evaluation completed and following its recommendations early on in your case often proves to be beneficial.

First Degree DWIs will also trigger lengthy driver’s license revocations and often involve a seizure of the car used in the arrest. Minnesota’s laws are routinely changing on vehicle forfeitures. Right now, you have 60 days to challenge your vehicle being taken away by filing a complaint and demand for judicial determination. There are also other ways to get your car returned through the prosecutor’s office and law enforcement agency that seized the car.