Being arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) is more than just an inconvenience. A DUI conviction could affect your insurance rates and driving privileges, deny you certain jobs or professional licenses, disqualify you from obtaining a mortgage or leasing an apartment, and restrict your ability to operate a boat, snowmobile, or all-terrain vehicle.
You owe it to yourself to fight the DUI charge vigorously. A St. Louis Park DUI lawyer could use all the tools at their disposal to get you the best outcome possible under the circumstances. Reach out to a seasoned member of our legal team to learn more.
DUI Is a Complex Crime
Driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeding .08 is driving under the influence, although a person with a lower BAC could face a DUI charge in some circumstances. For example, if a smaller amount of alcohol resulted in impaired driving, prosecutors could still bring a DUI charge. Similarly, a driver under the influence of any Schedule 1 or Schedule 2 drug besides marijuana could face DUI charges.
Multiple factors determine what charges a prosecutor could bring. An experienced St. Louis Park attorney could discover and present evidence that might persuade a prosecutor to file a lesser charge or decline to prosecute an alleged DUI.
First-Time DUI Offenses Carry Lesser Consequences in St. Louis Park
A first DUI conviction without aggravating factors is a misdemeanor that carries a potential 90-day jail sentence and a $1,000 fine. Prosecutors look back ten years to determine whether there are prior DUI convictions, so someone who had a conviction more than ten years ago would be treated as a first offender.
However, first offenders could face enhanced charges under circumstances that involve specific aggravating factors. State law allows a prosecutor to bring more serious charges if, when the police stopped the vehicle, the driver:
- Had a BAC of at least .16
- Was carrying someone less than 16 years old as a passenger
- Refused a chemical sobriety test
A gross misdemeanor conviction could lead to jail time of up to one year, a fine of up to $3,000, impoundment of license plates, the need to buy special “whiskey plates,” and mandatory use of an ignition interlock device.
Multiple DUI offenses within the same ten-year period could be charged as either gross misdemeanors or felonies. If the driver was not involved in an accident when impaired and there were no aggravating factors, a driver facing their second DUI charge in a decade is likely to be charged as a gross misdemeanor.
Felony DUI Charges
When an impaired driver, even a first offender, is involved in an accident that leads to severe injury or death, they could face a felony charge. In addition, a prosecutor could bring a felony DUI charge if the driver:
- Faced another DUI charge within a year of the current charge
- Has at least two prior DUI convictions within the past ten years
- Was previously convicted of felony DUI or criminal vehicular homicide while impaired by drugs, alcohol, or other intoxicants
Conviction on this charge could lead to fines up to $14,000 and as much as seven years of incarceration. Authorities could impound the driver’s license plates and even seize the vehicle. Driver’s license cancellation is possible, preventing the driver from applying for a limited license to drive to work or school. Working with an experienced DUI attorney in St. Louis Park could help an individual avoid the harshest consequences of a DUI.
Defenses to DUI Charges
Sometimes police and prosecutors make mistakes and charge an innocent person with DUI. At other times, the driver might acknowledge drinking and driving and believe there is no point in contesting the charge if they failed a sobriety test. Regardless of the circumstances, it is always best to consult with a knowledgeable St. Louis Park attorney who could work to build a strong DUI defense.
In all criminal cases, the police and prosecutors must respect the rights of anyone they suspect of a crime, and they have the burden of proving the accused guilty. A defense lawyer could question whether a police officer had good cause to pull a driver over. If the police administered a field sobriety test, the officer must establish that they did so correctly. If the accused took a chemical test, it might be possible to challenge the accuracy of the test and the quality of the lab that analyzed the sample.
If prior convictions led to an enhanced charge, questioning whether the accused had effective counsel for the earlier case could convince a judge not to count it. Finally, diversion programs that offer reduced or dismissed charges when the accused completes substance misuse treatment might be a good option in some cases.
Get in Touch with a St. Louis Park DUI Attorney
A DUI is a serious charge with significant consequences. Do not risk your future by failing to explore all your legal options with a St. Louis Park DUI lawyer.
An experienced local advocate could make a big difference in the outcome of your case. Call as soon as you are arrested to get the support of a committed attorney.