What is Fourth Degree DWI in MN?

Fourth Degree DWIs in MN are misdemeanor offenses. These carry a maximum sentence of up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. However, Fourth Degree DWIs are the least severe DWI in Minnesota. Felony First Degree DWI is the worst. Gross Misdemeanor Second and Gross Misdemeanor Third Degree DWIs are less severe than felony DWI.

A Fourth Degree DWI can occur on a person’s first offense, if the person’s alcohol level was below .16. This blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level needs to be under .16 for the test taken at the police department or jail, which is referred to as the evidentiary test. This is a completely different test than the preliminary breath test (PBT) a person often submits to at the location of the traffic stop. PBTs cannot be used to charge someone with DWI offenses, but PBTs can be used to support probable cause to arrest someone for DWI. That arrest will ultimately lead the evidentiary test.

If the evidentiary test result is under .16 and the driver does not have any prior DWIs or designated license revocations in the past ten years, then a Fourth Degree DWI charge is likely to ensue. Officers then often allow the driver to be released to a sober party. In some circumstances, the driver may be released on their own if they completely sober up while in custody. In very rare cases, a person will be required to pay bail to be released on a misdemeanor DWI case.

After being charged with Fourth Degree DWI, the court notifies the person of their first court appearance. This notification can happen right away from the officer giving the notice. Or, it can come later from the court mailing a notice. Most private criminal defense lawyers will take care of the first appearance for you without you needing to appear, if you sign a waiver of appearance form. In that scenario, the lawyer will select the next court date called a pre-trial hearing. Your attorney then should notify you what date that will be.

After your arrest for DWI, you will likely receive a notice an order of license revocation and prohibited use. For Fourth Degree DWI cases, if you took an evidentiary alcohol concentration test that was between .08 and .15, then the revocation will be for 90 days. You have 60 days to challenge that revocation. There will also be an option to get a limited license (a.k.a. work permit) after 15 days have passed the 7-day temporary license that is issued to you upon release from custody.

It is also important to note that DWIs are enhanceable offenses. Any subsequent DWI within a 10-year period can be more severe. 4 DWIs in 10 years is a felony offense. The civil penalties can also be more severe, including longer license revocations and forfeiture of your motor vehicle in certain situations.