Second-degree driving while impaired (DWI) is the second most serious level of DWI in Minnesota. It is a gross misdemeanor with similar punishments as those of third-degree DWI. One significant difference, however, is that second-degree DWI has harsher minimum penalties: a convicted driver could get a longer mandatory jail sentence and have their vehicle forfeited.
If you’re facing a second-degree DWI charge, it’s vital to contact a criminal defense attorney who is experienced in reducing DWI penalties and getting charges dropped or reduced in certain cases.
What counts as 2nd-degree DWI in Minnesota?
Second-degree DWI in Minnesota occurs when a person is driving while intoxicated or with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, with two aggravating factors. An aggravating factor is any of the following:
- an alcohol-related license revocation or a DWI conviction within the past 10 years
- having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.16 or more at the time of the offense
- having a child under 16 years old in the vehicle during the offense if the child is younger than the driver by more than 36 months
- refusing to submit to a chemical test such as breath, urine, or blood sampling.
In many cases, what is originally a third-degree drunk-driving charge rises to second-degree DWI because the driver refuses a chemical test. Drivers who refuse testing commonly hope to avoid a DWI conviction altogether. Officers will accept a test refusal, but the driver risks enhancing their DWI charge and sentence.
Minnesota DWI test refusal laws can be strict but confusing, and you could be walking a fine line between exercising your rights and violating the law. As soon as possible, contact an experienced defense lawyer to protect you from harsher punishments.
What is the penalty for 2nd-degree DWI in Minnesota?
The penalties for a second-degree DWI conviction in Minnesota may include:
- Jail time of up to one year, with a mandatory minimum of 90 days (as opposed to the 30-day minimum jail sentence for third-degree DWI)
- Fines up to $3,000
- License revocation of up to two years, depending on the aggravating factor (we’ll discuss more of this in the next section)
- License cancelation for third-time offender (driver must go through reinstatement program to get their license back)
- Vehicle forfeiture in second- degree DWI cases that involve three convictions or alcohol related drivers license revocation within 10 years (a penalty that is not imposed for third-degree DWI)
- Impounding of license plate
- Up to six years of possible probation
- Community work service
- Substance abuse counseling or treatment, if the court finds necessary.
License revocation is an administrative sanction, not a criminal penalty. A driver doesn’t have to be convicted of the criminal charge in order to get their license revoked. They have to successfully challenge this penalty at the separate license revocation hearing (also called an implied consent hearing) if they wish to keep their driving privileges.
A competent defense lawyer can help accomplish this. Your attorney should also know how to protect your rights during and after your arrest, negotiate for a lesser sentence, or have the charges dismissed entirely in cases that warrant it.
How long do you lose your license on a 2nd-degree DWI in Minnesota?
If you’ve been charged with a second-degree DWI in Minnesota, you could lose your license for two years, depending on the aggravating factor. Further, if this was your third DWI offense in 10 years, your license could be canceled. Here are more details:
Since 2011, people who faced a driver’s license revocation or license cancellation of 3 years or more have been required to have the ignition interlock installed and participate in the program before their driver’s license could be valid again. People who were facing revocation periods shorter than 3 years had the option of simply waiting out the revocation period without driving at all if they did not want to enroll in the ignition interlock program. That has now changed. From 2021 anyone with a two-year-long license revocation period will be required to participate in the interlock program before they can get fully valid to drive. Also, in certain cases people facing one-year-long revocation periods (those who have a prior DWI offense within the preceding ten years or two prior offenses outside of the previous ten years) will also be required to enroll in the interlock program before they can get fully valid to drive. The 2021 law allows an exception to these new mandatory ignition interlock requirements if the accused can prove that he or she did not own any vehicle at the time of the DWI arrest. These people have the option of waiting out the revocation period without driving at all and thereafter get fully valid.
Another change for accused DWI offenders who are facing 3 or more years of license cancellation or revocations is that they no longer have to have limited license restrictions during their first year of the ignition interlock program. Before 2021 those individuals had to deal with using the ignition interlock AND being limited to driving only for educational/work/medical purposes for the first year of using the ignition interlock. Now they can drive without any restrictions as long as they are participating in the ignition interlock program and have the device installed in their car.
What to expect at arraignment for 2nd-degree DWI in Minnesota
After your DWI arrest, you must appear at the initial court hearing called an arraignment. Here, the judge will read the charge(s) against you, state your rights related to the case, then ask for your plea. If you enter a Guilty plea, the judge will impose a sentence. If your plea is Not Guilty, the case will proceed to an omnibus hearing, with subsequent hearings at a later date.
It is essential to have a lawyer advise you before you enter any kind of plea. At this early stage, the prosecution may not even have all evidence yet, hence it may not be wise to plead guilty at this point.
Contact DWI Defense Attorney Jeff Dean
A conviction of second-degree DWI means much more than severe penalties – it also affects your work, social life, and long-term prospects. Get a reliable defense lawyer on your side. As soon as you are arrested or charged, contact Attorney Jeff Dean, who has been protecting Minnesotans for over 26 years. He has obtained Not Guilty verdicts, dismissals, and lowered charges in criminal cases for his clients in Hennepin, Ramsey, Stearns, and Dakota counties over more than 20 years.
Talk to Jeff Dean about your DUI or DWI charges. Call (612) 805-6916 today.