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What are the penalties for a DWI conviction in Minnesota?

Things to remember...

  • In Minnesota, even if you measure less than .08 for alcohol, a police officer can still deem you unfit and issue you a DWI
  • There are six possible offenses you can get in Minnesota for a DWI, and each one has more severe penalties compared to the last
  • Insurance companies can look back as far as 10 years in your driving history; you don’t want a DWI to blemish your record
  • Besides being dangerous, a DWI is expensive and can result in you losing your driver’s license, paying fines, jail time, and high insurance rates
  • Minnesota auto insurance companies will increase their rates for anyone who drinks and drives
  • One way to counteract a DWI and get back on the right track is to get an interlock ignition device for your car

If you’re a drinker, even a casual drinker, you’ve surely been faced with the question of whether you’ve had too much to drive. Driving under the influence is unsafe for you and others on the road.

It’s always best to make sure you have a sober ride if you’re going to have even one drink.

A DWI is not only dangerous, it’s also expensive and can result in you losing your right to drive, paying fines, jail time, and very high insurance rates.

If you’re in need of better and more affordable auto insurance, enter your ZIP code above and compare three to four policies today!

Table of Contents

Driving While Impaired in Minnesota

In Minnesota, drunk driving is known as a DWI, Driving While Impaired. A DWI ticket can be issued to a driver with a BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) of 0.08. This amount is pretty average across all 50 states.

It’s a number we often hear referenced, but what does it take to get to .08? The answer depends on your size, your sex, and how many you’ve already had. Even one drink can be too much.

The legal limit is a guideline for law enforcement. In Minnesota, even if you measure less than .08, a police officer can deem you under the influence and issue a DWI — especially if you are driving a commercial vehicle or if you’re underage.

If you are driving with a minor under 16 years of age in the vehicle or a person less than 36 months younger than you, your penalties will be much more.

Your Driving History Reflects on You

In Minnesota, a DWI stays on your record for 10 years. It’s the timeframe a judge can look back if you have a second or third DWI offense. After 10 years have passed, and you have no new DWIs, your slate is clear.

Insurance is different than the courts. Most insurance companies look back for five years for driving record blemishes. Much depends on your overall driving record.

Insurance companies have the right to view anything on your DMV driving record, which in Minnesota, goes back for ten years.

The SR-22 form, or agreement of financial responsibility, must be filed with your insurer. The insurer will begin to charge very high rates.

If the driver cancels or lapses insurance coverage, then the insurer will notify the state, and the driver will once again have their license revoked. An SR-22 is required for three years.

Penalties for a DWI

First Offense

In Minnesota, the first offense is a fourth-degree misdemeanor, provided there are no aggravating factors. Aggravating factors include:

  • Any prior drunk driving offense
  • Driving with a BAC of greater than 0.16
  • Driving with a minor in the car

A first offense DWI results in $1,000 fine and up to 90 days in jail.

If the driver is under 21 years of age, their license can be revoked for 180 days. A first offense with one aggravating factor can carry a sentence of up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine.

The first offense with no aggravating factors is a misdemeanor, but adding aggravating factors increases the classification of the crime.

One aggravating factor makes the arrest a third-degree offense and is considered a gross misdemeanor. Two aggravating factors make it a second-degree offense and a gross misdemeanor. Three aggravating factors is considered a first-degree offense and a felony.

Second Offense

A second offense within 10 years is a gross misdemeanor, and the following penalties are:

  • $3,000 fine
  • Revoked license for one year
  • Mandatory 30 days in jail or a workhouse that can last as long as up to one year

A workhouse is a place to send convicts with less than a year on their sentence. Some workhouses in Minnesota use the same campus as a prison, and some are standalone facilities.

A workhouse is a place that is heavily focused on rehabilitation. Inmates can learn job skills that will be directly applicable to them once they are released. Inmates can also receive substance abuse help and mental health rehabilitation.

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Third Offense

The third offense carries a penalty of a revoked license for one to three years and a sentence of up to 90 days in jail or workhouse.

If it’s a third offense, a pretrial release from detention may be allowed if the offender agrees to abstain from alcohol and to submit to electronic alcohol monitoring (REAM) with at least daily breath alcohol testing. If max bail is imposed, no pretrial release may be secured.

Fourth Offense

A fourth offense results in a revoked license for three years. A fourth offense in 10 years results in a revoked license for four years.

Here are the other penalties involved for a fourth offense:

  • 90 days to seven years of jail time
  • At least 30 consecutive days in a local jail or workhouse
  • $14,000 fine

A fourth conviction in 10 years carries harsher penalties including impoundment of registration plates. The offender must surrender the license plates from their vehicle to the DMV.

An offender must submit to weekly monitoring with a probation officer and random substance testing. They are also responsible for paying all court fees and services.

Fifth Offense

The fifth offense, on record, results in:

  • Canceled drivers license for six years
  • One year of incarceration with at least 60 days served consecutively in a local jailhouse or workhouse
  • Fines are determined by the judge

A sixth offense is the same as the fifth.

Ignition Interlock

Many people rely on their vehicles to get to and from work. Taking away their license is tantamount to taking away their ability to work. One remedy for this is the ignition interlock device.

An ignition interlock device requires the driver to breathe into a device before the car will start. A driver could be required to install an ignition interlock system after even the first offense if their BAC was greater than .16 percent.

This device is usually required after the second DWI, but is especially required for three DWIs or more in 10 years.

The ignition interlock system can be required to remain in your vehicle for one to six years. The driver is required to pay an installation fee as well as monitoring fees for the device.

Getting a DWI is a serious offense. It’s always best to find a sober ride home or to abstain from alcohol if you must drive. The laws surrounding DWIs are specific and written to enable the courts to greatly punish a repeat offender.

A DWI becomes a part of your criminal record, but it also affects you financially. Insurance is one place that a DWI can hurt tremendously.

Your current company can choose to discontinue your coverage or to charge you rates up to 30 percent more than you are currently paying if you live in the Twin Cities.

Choosing to drink and drive is much more expensive than choosing to take a cab home.

Are you looking to cut down on auto insurance costs? Enter your ZIP code below and start comparison shopping today!


  1. https://www.dmv.org/mn-minnesota/automotive-law/dui.php
  2. http://www.businessinsider.com/drinks-before-driving-if-bac-is-05-2013-5
  3. http://minnesotadriverslicense.org/tickets/sr-22.html
  4. http://corporate.findlaw.com/law-library/plate-impoundment-in-minnesota.html
  5. http://www.startribune.com/car-insurance-rates-can-rise-by-30-percent-in-st-paul-after-a-dui-study-finds/296464161/

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