The Consequences of a Minnesota DWI: Exploring Legal, Financial, and Personal Repercussions

Police Conducting a DWI Stop

Driving While Impaired (DWI) is a serious crime.  All states have laws criminalizing DWI, but Minnesota is particularly serious.  Being convicted of DWI can have major consequences on several aspects of a person’s life.  This post explores the legal, personal, and financial impact of a DWI conviction in Minnesota.

Legal Consequences

The Minnesota legal system takes DWI very seriously.  In fact, Minnesota courts routinely describe DWI statutes as “remedial” statutes, designed to fix a very specific behavior.  This has a major impact on your ability to fight a DWI charge – the fact that these statutes are “remedial” means that courts are more likely to reject challenges towards them.  No other area of crime is treated this way in Minnesota criminal law.  If convicted of a DWI, here’s what you can expect:

  1. Criminal Record: A DWI conviction results in a criminal record.  This can affect professional licensures, employment opportunities, housing applications, and more.
  2. License Revocation: If convicted of a DWI you will lose your license.  How long the revocation lasts depends on your prior record, whether you took an alcohol concentration test or not, your alcohol concentration if you did take the test, and more.  You may be required to install an ignition interlock if you want to legally drive again.  And, if charged with a DWI, you may still have your license revoked even if the criminal charge is dismissed or you plead to a different offense.
  3. Jail Time:  Depending on the circumstances, a person convicted of DWI can receive jail time or even be sent to prison.  Even a first-time DWI offender can get jail time in Minnesota.  Higher alcohol concentrations or prior offenses in particular can trigger longer sentences, including mandatory minimum sentences that a judge must impose.
  4. Fines: Minnesota courts often impose serious fines for DWI convictions and fees for any driver’s license reinstatement. 
  5. Ignition Interlock: For some drivers, ignition interlock will be mandatory following a DWI conviction.  Ignition interlock is a device that is installed in your vehicle which tests you for alcohol use before being able to start your vehicle.  At best, this is expensive and inconvenient.  For some people, it may also be very embarrassing.   

Financial Impact

Beyond the fines and penalties, you can expect to feel the financial impact of a DWI conviction in many ways.

  1. Insurance Premiums: Depending on your insurance company, you will almost certainly see a major increase in the cost of your auto insurance.  A DWI often makes a driver “high risk” in the eyes of insurers, meaning that your premiums will increase and you may be denied coverage altogether.
  2. Legal Fees: Properly defending yourself against a DWI charge requires a good criminal defense attorney who is familiar with Minnesota’s DWI laws and also with the methods and tactics that police and prosecutors use to investigate and prosecute these cases.  This expertise is an additional expense.
  3. Ignition Interlock: As mentioned above, you may be required to install an ignition interlock in order to be permitted to drive again.  There are typically costs involved with getting enrolled in the program, installing the device, rental fees for the device itself, and maintenance fees.
  4. Lost Income: If you’ve been accused of committing a DWI, you can expect to find yourself spending time at court, consulting with your lawyer, waiting in line at the DMV, and more.  Many of these things occur during business hours, which may cause you to lose income due to missing work.
  5. Driver’s License Reinstatement Fees: License reinstatement fees following a DWI in Minnesota start at $680.  This can be even higher than that depending on your circumstances.
  6. Court Ordered Fees: In addition to a fine, you can expect additional fees if you’re convicted of DWI in Minnesota.  These include chemical dependency evaluation fees, probation fees, costs associated with attending court ordered programming, and more.

Personal Impact

Social Stigma: Being charged with a DWI can be isolating.  You may be viewed differently by friends, colleagues, and even family.  This can strain relationships and cause feelings of shame and isolation.

  1. Emotional Toll: All of the various impacts can snowball and result in a serious emotional toll.  Anxiety, depression, and stress are all common.
  2. Career Ramifications: For many people, their career is a core part of their identity.  A DWI case can threaten that career, particularly for people who drive or operate equipment for a living, or those who work in fields that require professional licensure. 

In conclusion, a DWI conviction in Minnesota has major legal, personal, and financial repercussions that can have a long-lasting impact on someone’s life.  Many of these still occur even if the underlying criminal charge is ultimately dismissed.  A skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to help mitigate these consequences.  If you’ve been charged with a DWI in Minnesota, contact me for a free consultation to discuss how I can help you get through this and move on with your life.

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