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What Happens When You Are Charged With A DWI in Minnesota

Jun 20, 2024 | DWI

Being pulled over by the police can be a stressful experience, especially if it results in a charge of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). In Minnesota, the process following a DWI charge involves several key steps. Understanding these steps can help you navigate the situation more effectively.

1. The Traffic Stop

  • Initial Contact: The process begins when a law enforcement officer pulls you over, for example for a minor traffic violation but sometimes for something more serious like an accident.
  • Interaction with Officer: The officer will approach your vehicle and ask for your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. Be polite and provide the requested documents.

2. Field Sobriety Tests

  • Observation: The officer may observe your behavior, speech, and physical condition to look for signs of impairment.
  • Standardized Tests: If the officer suspects you are under the influence, they may ask you to perform standardized field sobriety tests (e.g., walk-and-turn, one-leg stand, horizontal gaze nystagmus). Field sobriety testing is not required, but an officer will probably not tell you that. You can respectfully decline to take field sobriety tests. 
  • Preliminary Breath Test (PBT): The officer may request a preliminary breath test to estimate your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Like field sobriety testing, a PBT is not required.

3. Arrest and Chemical Testing

  • Probable Cause: If the officer determines there is probable cause to believe you are impaired, you will be arrested and taken into custody.
  • Implied Consent Advisory: You will be read an implied consent advisory, informing you of your obligation to take a chemical test (breath, blood, or urine) to measure your BAC.
  • Chemical Test: You must choose one of the available chemical tests. Refusal to take the test can result in additional penalties.

4. Booking and Detention

  • Booking Process: At the police station, you may undergo a booking process, which includes fingerprinting, photographing, and recording personal information.
  • Detention: You may be held until you can be released to a sober party, or you may be held to appear before a judge.

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5. Administrative and Criminal Penalties

  • Administrative License Suspension: If your BAC is .08 or higher, or if you refuse the chemical test, your driver’s license may be administratively revoked, and if eligible you may receive a temporary license valid for seven days.
  • Criminal Charges: A prosecutor will review the police reports and evidence and make a charging decision depending on the facts of your case and your prior DWI history. 

6. Court Proceedings

  • First Appearance/Arraignment: Preliminary hearings address rights advisories, scheduling, and bail or conditions of release. 
  • Pre-Trial Proceedings: You may have pre-trial hearings to address motions, plea negotiations, and discovery (exchange of evidence).
  • Trial: If the case goes to trial, the prosecution must prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt while the charged person is presumed innocent. The person charged with DWI has a number of important constitutional rights throughout the proceedings, including trial rights. 

7. Sentencing and Penalties

  • Sentencing: If you are convicted of DWI penalties range depending on the facts of the case, plea negotiations, mandatory sentencing laws, etc. 
  • License Reinstatement: The DMV requirements for your Minnesota license and your options to reinstate vary depending on your particular circumstances and history and the DMV rules. Some counties offer options alternatives allowing immediate temporary reinstatement. Ask about the options you might have for your situation. 

8. Aftermath and Recovery

  • Impact on Life: A DWI conviction can impact various aspects of your life, including employment, insurance rates, and personal relationships.
  • Seeking Support: It is essential to seek support from family, friends, and professional services to help you recover and avoid future incidents.

Final Thoughts

Being charged with a DWI in Minnesota is a serious matter with significant consequences. It is crucial to understand your rights and the legal process to make informed decisions. Consulting with a knowledgeable attorney can provide valuable guidance and help you navigate the complexities of the legal system.

If you find yourself in this situation, remember to stay calm, cooperate with law enforcement, and reach out to us immediately to ensure the best possible outcome.


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