If a law enforcement official stops you and believes that you are operating a vehicle under the influence of either alcohol or drugs, you will most likely asked to take a field sobriety test, a preliminary breath test (PBT), or both. Common field sobriety tests used by law enforcement include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, the one leg stand, and the walk and turn. A PBT requires the suspect to blow into a handheld device to determine their approximate blood alcohol content (BAC). In Minnesota it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or greater or while under the influence. You are not legally required to perform either the field sobriety tests or the PBT. Law enforcement will commonly tell the suspect that these tests are to ensure that the suspect is “ok” to drive, but they may be searching for further evidence of impairment that can be used against you.
In Minnesota, if you are arrested on suspicion of DWI, law enforcement is required to read you an Implied Consent Advisory. It informs you that have an obligation under state Law to take a blood alcohol test, that refusing to take the test is a crime, and that you have the right to contact an attorney before choosing whether to test. If the officer does not properly inform a suspect of the implied consent advisory, a lawyer may be able to have the test result suppressed.
After you have been arrested, the court will decide when you should be released. First-time offenders who have committed a misdemeanor will likely be released without bail. However, many other factors will be considered as to whether you will be released. These conditions include whether the individual has a prior criminal record, exhibited reckless behavior such as excessive speeding or driving with a minor, whether the DWI offense involved injury or property damage, and if there is a history of failing to appear in court. In some cases, bail may be required for the individual to be released from custody under Minnesota’s mandatory DWI bail laws. Bail is a set amount of money that must be paid for someone to be released from custody. Once the bail amount is paid, the individual is released from custody.
If you are charged with a DWI, you will receive a notice of license revocation. It will inform you that your license will be revoked seven days from the incident date. The revocation period will depend on factors including your blood-alcohol level and prior criminal history. You have 60 days to challenge the revocation of your driver’s license from the date of your arrest. If you do not, you may not be able to contest the revocation or the length of time your driving privileges will be revoked.
Your arraignment is your first hearing after your arrest. At this hearing, if your offense is a misdemeanor, the court will inform you of the charges and ask you for your plea. If you plead guilty you will then receive a sentence, and if you plead not guilty, a pretrial hearing will be scheduled.
If you enter a plea of not guilty, a pre-trial conference will be scheduled. The pre-trial conference is an opportunity for your attorney and the prosecution to file pre-trial motions, to inform the judge of any new issues, and potentially negotiate a plea bargain. Your attorney may also request that certain evidence be suppressed or that the charges be dismissed.
If the case has not been resolved, the case will proceed to trial. You will be tried by a jury of six people for a misdemeanor offense. If the offense is a felony, your jury will be comprised of 12 people. The trial will allow the prosecution and defense to present evidence. You will have the opportunity to testify at trial if you wish. However, you are not required to testify, and your silence cannot be used against you. Once all the evidence is presented, the jury will decide the verdict. If you are found guilty the judge will sentence you in accordance with Minnesota law. You will also have the chance to appeal to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
The punishment for this offense depends on many factors, including the degree of conviction, prior criminal history, and if there are aggravating factors such as extremely high blood-alcohol content level and if a minor was in the vehicle. You will receive both criminal and administrative penalties.
If your blood-alcohol content is under 0.16 and it is your first DWI offense, the criminal penalties may include up to 90 days in jail and/or $1,000 fine. The administrative penalties include loss of driving privileges for 90 days.
If your blood-alcohol content is under 0.16 and it is your second DWI offense, the criminal penalties may include up to 1 year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine. The administrative penalties include impoundment of license plates and either a loss of driving privileges for 1 year or 1 year of an ignition interlock device.
Regardless of your blood-alcohol content, the criminal penalties may include up to 1 year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine. The administrative penalties include cancellation of license, impoundment of license plates, vehicle forfeiture, and 3 years of an ignition interlock device.
Regardless of your blood-alcohol content, the criminal penalties may include up to 7 years in jail and/or a $14,000 fine. The administrative penalties include cancellation of license, impoundment of license plates, vehicle forfeiture, and 4-6 years of an ignition interlock device.
If you are being charged with a DWI, you need legal counsel. Make sure to contact a knowledgeable attorney at The BK Law Group to receive your free consultation.