Felony DWI


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 wakeup 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.
Felony DWI
Minnesota criminal law defines the term felony to mean any crime for which incarceration of more than one year may be imposed. Under Minnesota’s felony DWI law, a person who commits first-degree DWI is guilty of a felony and may be sentenced to:

  • imprisonment for not more than seven years (or more than seven years if the person has other prior criminal history);
  • a fine of not more than $14,000; or both.

A person is guilty of first-degree DWI if the person violates the DWI law:

  • within ten years of three or more qualified prior impaired driving incidents (defined as

prior convictions or license revocations for separate impaired driving incidents); or

  • has previously been convicted of a felony DWI crime; or
  • has previously been convicted of a felony level crime of criminal vehicular homicide

or injury (CVO) involving alcohol or controlled substances. Unlike non-felony DWI crimes, being arrested with a high alcohol concentration (.20 or more) or under circumstances of child endangerment are not defined as aggravating factors for felony DWI; instead, only qualified prior impaired driving incidents and prior convictions for felony CVO are considered. When sentencing a person for a felony DWI offense, the court:

  • must impose a sentence to imprisonment for not less than three years; and
  • may stay execution of this mandatory sentence, but may not stay imposition of this

sentence or sentence the person to less than three years imprisonment.

More information at http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hrd/pubs/dwiover.pdf on page 14

The report above is from the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission. To understand the legal terminology better, go to this website that describes what the terms mean. 


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