It is illegal to Text & Drive
Even stopped in traffic
or at stoplights
Commentary by Nancy Johnson, MSD legislative liaison
Felony DWI passed the Minnesota legislature in August 1, 2002. This law affects multiply repeat offenders and these people will receive a felony charge and be facing prison time. This law was a long time coming and one that should be a wake up call to chronic drunk drivers that their life will change if they keep driving drunk. The laws in the past gave judges the option of placing these offenders in jail for usually up to 1 year and on probation for 2 years. The incarceration time was in county jail and usually on work release and the conviction was a gross misdemeanor. A felony conviction is much more serious and will put a damper on most people’s lives. It affects the ability to get many jobs, rent apartments, hunt, and vote to name a few. Also the sentence given will become a prison sentence not county jail and the probation time is 5 years. Prison was not possible under the old laws. The following is a description of how the law works.
When a person is arrested for their 4th DWI in 10 years they should be charged with a felony DWI. If convicted the felony is on the record even if a prison sentence is not executed. If convicted they could receive a 36 month prison sentence that probably would be stayed (postponed unless more convictions arise or probation has be violated). The 5th DWI would probably result in another stayed sentence. With the stayed prison sentence, the offender will be sentenced to county jail time up to one year, with the threat of the prison time being held over their head as a deterrent. The 6th or 7th DWI should result in a 54 month executed prison term.
As of July 1, 2010 there were 686 people serving time in prison for DWI felony convictions. That is 7.1% of the prison population.
Report for Felony DWI Convictions in 2011
There were 660 offenders sentenced for felony DWI in 2011 (Figure 1). This is one percent lower than in 2010. Thirty percent of the DWI offenders sentenced in 2011 were sentenced for a subsequent felony DWI offense compared to 20 percent in 2010.
Felony DWI offenders were more likely to be white or American Indian males than were offenders sentenced for other offenses (Figure 2). On average, they were five years older than other offenders (Table 1), and more likely to be sentenced in greater Minnesota (Figure 3).
Ninety-six percent of offenders sentenced for felony DWI received incarceration in either a state prison (31%) or local correctional facility (i.e., jail) as part of a probationary sentence (65%) (Table 2). The state prison rate increased from 25 percent in 2010 to 31 percent in 2011.
The average pronounced prison sentence was 50 months, which is three months shorter than the average sentence pronounced in 2010. The number of DWI offenders who were recommended prison was 46 percent (Table 5). 65% of those convicted of felony DWI were sent to county jail for an average of 202 days, as a condition of probation.
The mitigated dispositional departure rate for presumptive commitments was 35 percent, which is an increase from the rate in 2010 (32%) (Figure 5). The mitigated durational departure rate for offenders receiving executed prison sentences was 23 percent, an increase from the 2010 rate of 17 percent, which was the lowest rate ever observed (Figure 6). The average pronounced jail period for offenders receiving local jail as a condition of probation was 202 days (Table 3).
Fifty percent of all felony DWI cases were sentenced in the following counties (in order of greatest number): Hennepin, Ramsey, Dakota, Anoka, Olmsted, St. Louis, and Clay. All other counties had less than 23 DWI sentences in 2011
Information taken from Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission Report http://www.msgc.state.mn.us/data_reports/2011 /2011%20MN%20Sentencing%20Guidelines%20Comm%20DWI%20Report%202011.pdf