If you are unable to recall the facts of your case, but want to take advantage of a plea offer, then a Norgaard plea may be appropriate. Norgaard covers situations where the defendant was too intoxicated at the time or just flat out does not remember what happened. This differs from an Alford plea in which a person maintains their innocence, but believes there is enough evidence to convict them at trial.
Norgaard pleas often come into play when a person was so drunk or high at the time of the incident and cannot remember the events. In many incidents involving drugs or alcohol, such as DWIs and drug possession offenses, this can happen fairly often. The quagmire becomes when a defendant wants to take a plea offer from the prosecution, but has to admit to what happened in the case. They are placed under oath and asked whether they remember the events in question. Not wanting to lie and commit perjury, a Norgaard plea allows people who do not recall what happened, to still take advantage of a plea offer.
Minnesota appellate courts do caution that Norgaard and Alford pleas should not be the common plea. They advise only using them in limited circumstances when alternatives are not available. Additionally, proper procedures need to be carefully followed when entering a Norgaard or Alford plea. First, state on the record that a Norgaard plea or Alford plea is being entered. A mundane, but sometimes overlooked, simple task to make the record clear.
Further, for a Norgaard plea to be accepted, a series of questions should be asked of the defendant. This includes:
- Whether they know what a Norgaard plea is;
- Whether they have reviewed the discovery, police reports, complaint, any audio and video;
- If they recall the events in the discovery;
- If they were intoxicated, or otherwise do not remember, the incident in the discovery;
- Do they doubt the accuracy of the allegations in the discovery;
- That if the case went to trial, they understand the prosecution’s witnesses would testify as to what is contained in the discovery;
- That the evidence submitted at trial would be sufficient for a jury to find them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt;
- They are pleading guilty to accept the plea offer;
- Whether they are pleading freely and voluntarily; and
- Whether they are claiming innocence.
The main reason to follow the questions above is so that the judge accepts the plea offer. Secondarily, it preserves a solid record in case the validity of the plea is ever challenged on appeal.
Not knowing what to do in your case can be difficult. If you do not remember everything that happened in the incident you were allegedly involved in, then it can be even more stressful. For a free consultation about your case and to discuss your options, please contact Ambrose Law Firm, PLLC by phone or text: 612-547-3199. You can also fill out the contact form below and one of our attorneys will contact you soon.
Short answer: unlikely for most people.
Longer answer: it depends on how serious your first DWI is and where in Minnesota your DWI occurred.
Most first time MN DWI offenses are 4th Degree DWIs. This is the least severe DWI for first-time offenders who have an alcohol concentration level below .16. It also is the level of DWI for first-time drug related DWIs. Most of these DWIs in the twin cities, will not result in jail time based on plea negotiations. Often, a person receives stayed jail time (a.k.a. time hanging over your head) for a period of their probation. 4th Degree DWIs are misdemeanor offenses, which have a maximum punishment of ninety days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Therefore, the maximum amount of stayed jail time is ninety days. Often, you will see thirty days of stayed time on a first-time misdemeanor DWI.
Sometimes, in Minnesota, for a 4th Degree DWI, you may have to do a couple of days of community service work. In some jurisdictions, they may ask for more severe punishment such as jail time, house arrest, or being placed on an alcohol monitor, but this is not the norm.
There are other levels of DWI that a person can be charged with on a first-time offense. 3rd Degree DWI, and even 2nd Degree DWI, can occur for a first timer. Both of those levels are gross misdemeanor DWIs that carry a maximum punishment of three hundred and sixty-five days in jail and a $3,000 fine. The most common way a person is charged with a 3rd Degree DWI on a first-time offense is when their alcohol concentration level was .16 or more as measured within two hours of them driving. The other most common way a person is charged with 3rd Degree DWI on a first-time offense is if they refuse to take the breath, blood, or urine test after they have been arrested, which is called the evidentiary test. The least common way a first-time DWI offense will result in a 3rd Degree charge is if they have a child under the age of 16 in their vehicle. 2nd Degree DWIs can occur, for first-time offenses, if someone either tests .16 or more on their evidentiary test or refuses to take that test and they have a child under the age of 16 in their vehicle.
In these first-time 2nd or 3rd Degree DWI scenarios, it is more likely that a person may have to serve jail time. But in the twin cities, and surrounding metro counties, there are still a lot of these cases that result in stayed jail time or jail alternatives. In other jurisdictions, there can be a higher likelihood of jail in these aggravated DWI cases.
In any level of DWI case, it is highly recommended that you consult with an attorney who has experience in these cases, such as Ambrose Law Firm. We offer consultations at no charge. Feel free to contact us by calling or texting: 612-547-3199 or by filling out the form below.
In Minnesota, the cost of a DWI generally varies based on the severity of the charge. The more serious the charge, the more likely it is going to cost you more money. There are four degrees of DWI in Minnesota. The most serious is a first-degree felony DWI. The least severe is a fourth-degree misdemeanor DWI. Second and third degree DWIs are both gross misdemeanor offenses.
A misdemeanor fourth degree DWI has a maximum punishment of ninety days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Gross misdemeanor (second and third degree) DWIs have a maximum punishment of three hundred and sixty-five days in jail and a $3,000 fine. Felony DWIs have a maximum punishment of up to seven years in prison and a $14,000 fine. Keep in mind that these are maximum fines. It is pretty rare that a court imposes the maximum fine on any DWI case. Most courts will also give people significant time to pay their fines and even setup payment plans in many situations. Frequently, you may hear about the minimum fine on a misdemeanor fine being $300 and the minimum on a gross misdemeanor being $900. Each county court also has surcharges and fees that range anywhere from $78 to $100. Some courts also add a penalty assessment for any gross misdemeanor or felony DWI case. These fines and fees are only imposed when a person is convicted of a DWI or related offense, such as Careless Driving. If you get your case dismissed entirely, either through pre-trial motions, winning at trial, or having the prosecutor dismiss your case, then you will not be paying any court fees
Besides the court fines and fees, in cases that do not result in a dismissal, you can expect to pay a fee for programming. This programming often includes a chemical dependency evaluation (referred to as a chemical use assessment or alcohol problem assessment in some counties). A chemical dependency evaluation is a meeting with a licensed alcohol and drug counselor. At that interview, the evaluator talks to you about previous drug and alcohol use, the DWI incident, and whether you could benefit from any programming, such as educational classes or treatment. These evaluations usually range from $200–$300. Most counties also require a Victim Impact Panel to be completed, which is a two-hour discussion discussing the effects of driving while impaired. These panels usually cost around $25–$35. Some counties substitute these things for their own one-day DWI class, such as in Hennepin, Anoka, and Dakota County. Those county programs often take one day and include an evaluation and Victim Impact Panel. Those one-day classes often cost around $350–$400.
Further, if you tested .08 or more, refused the test, or had a schedule I or II controlled substance in your system, then you are likely facing a driver’s license revocation. To challenge that revocation with a judicial review in court, the county filing fees are usually around $300. To reinstate your driver’s license in Minnesota, the current fee is $680. If you find yourself needing an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle, then you are likely going to pay $100–$200 for installation and about $100 a month thereafter, depending on which company you use. There is also the likelihood of having to pay more in car insurance with a DWI on your record.
Also, importantly, hiring a respected DWI lawyer in Minnesota will cost you money. The fee to hire a criminal lawyer generally varies based on the severity of the case and expected work needed. If there is a challenge to a driver’s license revocation or vehicle forfeiture, then the lawyer will want to cover the filing fees for those challenges at a minimum. Most DWI lawyers operate on a flat-fee basis and do not bill by the hour. Some will offer payment plans to make it more affordable to you.
In summation, it is reasonable to expect to pay at least a few thousand dollars for your DWI case. Depending on the cost of your attorney and how much work needs to be put into your case, the fees are likely to increase from there.
If you have questions about your DWI case and want to inquire about our services, call our Minneapolis Criminal Defense Attorneys today, we offer consultations for no charge.
In Minnesota, DWI and DUI are basically synonymous terms. DWI stands for Driving While Impaired. DUI means Driving Under the Influence. Some states use DUI, others DWI, and some OWI. They all basically mean the same thing – that someone was driving while under the influence or while impaired.
Minnesota uses the term DWI – Driving While Impaired. In Minnesota’s DWI statute, there are seven different clauses, or ways, a person can be charged with a DWI. The two most common are driving under the influence of alcohol and for having an alcohol concentration of .08 or more within two hours of driving. Currently, in Minnesota and most other states, the legal limit to drive is .08. That is the per se, alcohol concentration, DWI count that most people are accustomed to hearing about. The under the influence DWI count can be charged regardless of a person’s alcohol level. All the prosecutor will want to prove in that charge is that you were under the influence while driving, such as by driving conduct and field sobriety testing.
Besides alcohol DWIs, Minnesota also makes it a DWI to be driving while under the influence of a controlled substance. Also known as, driving under the influence of drugs. Currently, Minnesota does not have per se limits for controlled substances in a person’s system. While there is a charge for having any amount of a schedule I or II controlled substance in your system other than marijuana or THC while driving, the catch-all is for a prosecutor to charge under the influence of a controlled substance. Similar to the DWI under the influence charge for alcohol, prosecutors will try to prove that you were under the influence of a controlled substance based on driving conduct and observations of the arresting police officer.
It is also a DWI in Minnesota to drive while under the influence of a hazardous substance. What is the difference between a hazardous substance and a controlled substance you ask? Hazardous substances are often contained in household products like aerosol and other items that people may abuse to get high. Controlled substances are drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, etc.
Minnesota also makes it a DWI for a person to be under the influence of a combination of two or more of: alcohol, controlled substances, and hazardous substances. It is also a DWI in Minneapolis to be driving a commercial motor vehicle with an alcohol concentration of .04 or more. This is a big deal for drivers with a CDL as it is often a detriment to their livelihood. CDL holders that get a DWI in a regular vehicle will have their CDL disqualified for a year. On their second offense it is a ten-year disqualification.
Aside from the aforementioned seven ways to get a DWI in Minnesota, you can also get a DWI for refusing to submit to an evidentiary breath test or refusing to submit to an evidentiary blood or urine test pursuant to a search warrant. These are called DWI Refusals in Minnesota.
Also, importantly, it is not only a DWI in Minnesota for driving while impaired, it is also a DWI to be operating or being in physical control of a motor vehicle in Minnesota. Minnesota’s physical control laws cover many situations where a person is found in the driver’s seat of the vehicle, but were not actually driving at the time. They will be charged and prosecuted just the same as the cases where someone was actually driving. Talking to a DUI lawyer who knows the nuances of Minnesota’s DWI laws can be extremely helpful. DWIs can trigger a a driver’s license revocation associated with your DWI case that needs to be addressed within a certain timeframe.
Yes. It is worth getting a lawyer for a DUI in Minnesota. Of course, you expect that to be an answer from a private law firm practicing criminal defense. But, a DUI lawyer who knows the nuances of DUI laws can add a level of knowledge that you otherwise may not have. Further, being charged in criminal court with a DUI is only one half of the case. Challenging the driver’s license revocation associated with your DUI case is neither something public defenders do routinely, nor is it an easy task to figure out on your own.
Value is measured in the eye of the beholder. What may be valuable to one person, may not be to another. Determining whether to hire a lawyer is comparable to deciding whether to go to a doctor for certain health conditions. If you think you broke your leg, you are probably going to want to get it checked out. Healthcare professionals can do an x-ray and determine whether there is a break. From there, they can recommend the best way to treat it. Surely, you could search on YouTube how to determine whether your leg is broken; and, if so, how to make a homemade cast. Or, you save yourself the hassle and ease your mind by going to see a doctor.
Similarly, lawyers are professionals in their fields. They can assess your case and determine the best course of action. They can review the discovery the prosecution provides and decide whether there are any issues to challenge in your case prior to a trial taking place. These are often called motions to suppress and motions to dismiss. DWI cases are often litigated in the pre-trial stages. Knowing the ins-and-outs of the legalities of traffic stops, field sobriety testing, right to counsel, and testing issues can be crucial. Even if you are not successful in a pre-trial motion, you still have the constitutional right to have a trial by a judge or jury. Having a lawyer with trial experience who knows the rules of evidence and how to try a case will save you the headache from trying to figure it out on your own.
For those not looking to challenge their DUI case, there is still value in having a DUI lawyer on your side. After all, many people will admit they consumed alcohol prior to driving. They are willing to take responsibility for what happened. But, they do not want to be taken advantage of in their case. In these circumstances, there can still be legal issues to challenge in a person’s case. We once had a client with an alcohol concentration of more than three times the legal limit and his car was in the ditch. We discovered an issue in his case with the policies the officers were following at the time and were able to get his DUI charge reduced to careless driving. At first blush, the client definitely did not think there would be anything to challenge. Staying out of jail and minimizing the damage were key priorities for him. But, we still did our due diligence and reviewed his case to identify any legal issues.
In cases with no legal issues present, having a DWI lawyer review your case and tell you that can alleviate concerns in the future. Back to the broken leg scenario, if you go to the doctor and they tell you that you did not break your leg, then you are going to have some peace of mind that you may not otherwise have been able to achieve. Having a DUI lawyer on your side to answer your questions and be there to advocate for your best interests is tremendously valuable to people who find themselves in the criminal justice system.
When evaluating whether you can beat your DWI case in Minnesota, a common first analysis is to look at how you came in contact with the police. Often, DWI cases start with a traffic stop. Others may begin with the vehicle already at a place of rest. In either scenario, you will want to review whether the officer conducted a seizure.
During traffic stops, a seizure is often apparent. The officer puts his lights and siren on and you pull over to the side of the road. To lawfully do that, the officer must have reasonable articulable suspicion of criminal activity. This can range from a minor traffic violation, such as speeding, to weaving all over the road and crossing the lane lines multiple times without signaling. Officers in Minnesota may not stop a vehicle based on a mere whim or idle curiosity. If they do so, you can challenge the basis for the traffic stop / seizure and ask that all the evidence obtained thereafter be suppressed. If the court grants a pre-trial motion such as that one, it often leads to a dismissal of the DWI charges against you.
When law enforcement encounters a person whose vehicle is already stopped, determining whether a seizure occurred is important to analyze. Officers sometimes approach a vehicle already parked in a parking lot. Or, come up to someone’s driveway to a person sitting in their car who reportedly drove their vehicle earlier. If the officers block those people in, so they are not free to leave, or show authority so that a person does not feel like they leave, then you may want to argue a seizure occurred. If so, then the officer has to have reasonable suspicion that a crime occurred and not just approach because they are curious.
Even if the officer came into contact with you ends up being valid in court, there can be other issues to challenge. Such as, the basis to expand the stop into a DWI investigation, the basis to ask you to take a preliminary breath test (PBT), probable cause for your arrest, reading you the proper advisories, right to counsel, right to independent test, and issues with a blood, breath, or urine sample.
Lawyers search for ways to get a DWI dismissed in the pre-trial stages through challenging issues like the ones mentioned above. Even if the DWI does not get dismissed based on pre-trial issues, then it can still occur through plea negotiations with a prosecutor. Sometimes, prosecutors are willing to have someone plead guilty to a lesser charge, such as careless driving. If plea negotiations fail, and you were not successful with any pre-trial motions, then you can still try to get your DWI dismissed by having a trial in front of a judge or jury. At trial, you would be presumed innocent and it would be the prosecutor’s burden to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Your lawyer could cross-examine the arresting officer and any other witnesses the prosecutor chose to testify. You could testify or invoke your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and not testify. Your lawyer would also present opening statements and closing arguments on behalf of your case. Having thorough discussions with your attorney about proceeding to trial is highly recommended. The reward of winning at trial is great. The risks need to at least be known before taking that step.
After an incident, it might be weeks, months, or even years before prosecutors bring formal charges against a defendant. In State v. Banks, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that a complaint can be dismissed under Rule 30.02 of the Minnesota Criminal Rules of Procedure if the prosecutors unnecessarily delayed in bringing those charges.
In order to have a case dismissed for pre-charge delay, a defendant must show that they were prejudiced or harmed by the delay. In Barker v. Wingo, the Supreme Court outlined three factors in determining prejudice:
1. Preventing oppressive pretrial incarceration
An individual may be prejudiced by having to endure time in jail while waiting to be charged. Time spent in jail awaiting trial is often detrimental to an individual, leading to the loss of a job, disrupting family life, and being forced into idleness with little to no recreational activities. Barker at 532.
2. Minimizing the anxiety and concern of the accused
Even if a person is not incarcerated prior to being charged, “he is still disadvantaged by restraints on his liberty and by living under a cloud of anxiety, suspicion, and often hostility.” Barker at 533. Criminal charges are serious and stressful allegations that affect peoples’ daily lives. When prosecutors delay in bringing charges, an individual is constantly facing stress and anxiety from the possibility of prison time and the affect criminal proceedings will have on their job and family life.
3. Preventing the possibility that the defense will be impaired
In any criminal case, a person has the right to prepare a defense. Often times, this includes collecting evidence and calling witnesses to testify. By the time prosecutors have formally charged a defendant, a significant amount of time may have passed. Witnesses may have died or forgotten important details about the incident, and critical evidence may not be preserved or accessible. “The inability of a defendant adequately to prepare his case skews the fairness of the entire system.” Barker at 532.
While prosecutors are not expected to file charges immediately, an unnecessary delay that causes prejudice based on any of the above factors could be grounds for dismissal of your criminal case. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us for a consultation at no cost.
Last week, Attorney Robert Ambrose won an implied consent hearing in Hennepin County District Court. An implied consent hearing is a challenge to a person’s driver’s license being revoked in connection with a DWI case. To keep a person’s driving record from reflecting a revocation for a DWI, you must prevent a DWI conviction in the corresponding criminal record and you must win the implied consent hearing. Not only was Attorney Ambrose successful in keeping a DWI conviction from being entered in the criminal case, he also succeeded at the license hearing.
In this implied consent hearing win, Attorney Ambrose raised the prescription drug defense. One way a person can be charged with a DWI and face a driver’s license revocation is to have a schedule I or II controlled substance in their system. In this case, the presence of a controlled substance appeared in the driver’s blood test. However, that driver neither exhibited impaired driving conduct, nor looked under the influence during field sobriety tests. Shockingly, a person innocently taking their prescription medications can still find themselves in the criminal justice system if that prescription medication contains a schedule I or II controlled substance.
One way to defeat a DWI and license revocation like this is to raise the prescription drug defense. If you can prove that the person was taking the medication in accordance with the prescription. In this case, Attorney Ambrose had a forensic scientist from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) come testify at the license hearing about whether the blood test result reflected a concentration level at a therapeutic or toxic level. Therapeutic levels generally reflect those taking medication in accordance with their prescription. Toxic and fatal levels can show someone potentially abusing the medication. Here, the blood test result reflected a therapeutic level and the BCA expert opined that the driver could have been taking her medication as prescribed.
A prosecutor can defeat the prescription drug defense, if they can show that the person was impaired by the substance. Here, no such evidence existed. This further corroborated that the driver was taking her medication according to the prescription.
All too often, police officers are overzealous. Some do not give drivers the benefit of the doubt and immediately suspect wrongdoing of some kind. With millions of drivers across the country taking prescription medications, it puts many innocent people at risk of criminal charges and license penalties in Minnesota. Mounting a strong defense is critical to preserve your rights, criminal background report, and driving record.
Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID) in Minnesota operates under the same DWI laws for alcohol related DWIs in Minnesota. DWI charges can arise from being under the influence of a controlled substance, under the influence of an intoxicating substance, a combination of those two or with alcohol, and if any amount of a Schedule I or II controlled substance other than marijuana. The differences lie in the investigation of those cases, enforcement, and driver’s license revocations.
Investigation & Enforcement of DUID
The reasons for why a person may get pulled over for driving under the influence of drugs are going to be similar to alcohol DWIs. Weaving, speeding, failing to signal a turn, having a headlight all are reasons for people to get stopped by law enforcement regardless of what is in their system. Once that driver gets pulled over, however, is where the differences start to take place.
Most, if not all, drugs besides marijuana have no distinct smell. Therefore, an officer approaching a vehicle will be unlikely to say they smell the odor of narcotics unless it is for marijuana. A favorite reason in alcohol DWIs is the officer stating they smell an odor of an alcoholic beverage on the driver’s breath. In drug cases, the officer is going to start to rely on bloodshot, watery eyes, a person’s speech, reaction time, fumbling with wallet, mannerisms, and the like. The officer will likely even ask the question “are you on any drugs or medications?” Answering that in the affirmative, will almost assuredly instigate field sobriety tests. Even answering that question “no” will still likely lead to testing.
The first test officers often administer is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test. In this test, the officer is looking to see if the driver’s eyes lack smooth pursuit, show nystagmus prior to forty-five degrees and at maximum deviation. Officers will also often perform a Vertical Nystagmus test in drug DWI cases. During these eye tests, the officer will also often look for pupil dilation, constricting, and fluttering.
Some other common tests officers perform when investigating for DUID include: modified Romberg test, finger-to-nose test, and finger counting test. The officer may also take a driver’s vital signs, including blood pressure, temperature, and pulse. They may also examine a person’s muscle tone, check for injection sites, and do a dark room examination of a person’s pupils to check their eyes for reaction to light. Sometimes, officers are drug recognition expert (DRE) certified and adhere to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) training and protocol.
If an officer believes they have probable cause to arrest someone for driving while under the influence of drugs, then they will proceed to obtain a warrant for a blood or urine test. Refusing to submit to a blood or urine test pursuant to a warrant is a DWI refusal offense.
Driver’s License Revocation
In Minnesota, if a driver’s blood or urine test reveals a schedule I or II controlled substance, then the commissioner of public safety will issue a driver’s license revocation. In other DUID cases, a person’s driver’s license will end up subject to revocation if they are convicted of DWI in their criminal case.
Not every DWI in Minnesota requires the driver to get on the ignition interlock program to obtain their driver’s license. For instance, if someone has no prior DWIs in their past and their alcohol concentration level measures under .16, then they do not need ignition interlock. Instead, they can obtain a limited license (a.k.a. work permit), after fifteen days pass in their license revocation period. Similarly, if a person has no prior DWIs and they refuse to submit to an evidentiary breath, blood, or urine test upon arrest for Driving While Intoxicated, then they can also obtain a limited license, if they wish. Those two options do allow someone to voluntarily get on the ignition interlock program, which is a rare occurrence because of the hassle and cost of ignition interlock. Another option in these two scenarios is to not drive for the duration of the license revocation period and then go through the reinstatement process at a MN DMV to get your driver’s license status back to valid.
Repeat DWIs in a 10-Year Period or .16 or Higher Test
For those who get their second DWI, or driver’s license revocation related to a DWI, within a ten-year period, ignition interlock is the only option to drive legally during their driver’s license revocation period. This also applies for those who have an alcohol concentration of at least double the limit, .16 or more, even if it is their first DWI. In these scenarios, the license revocation period is for one year. In these scenarios, the drivers do not have to get on ignition interlock for the one-year period. Similar to the situations above, the person can sit out the one-year period and not drive, and then go through the reinstatement process. If the driver chooses to go through the ignition interlock program, then they should follow this checklist provided by Driver & Vehicle Services. In a one- or two-year revocation period, getting on the ignition interlock program allows the person to drive wherever they want and whenever they want. This benefits those that need to drive for more than just their job under the limited license scenario.
For those facing a two-year license revocation period, because they tested .16 or more or refused the evidentiary test, plus they have a prior DWI within the past ten years, then ignition interlock is also an option for them. Similar to the scenarios above, it is not mandated.
For those who end up in a cancellation driver’s license status in Minnesota, ignition interlock is mandatory if they ever want to obtain a driver’s license with no restrictions. A person who gets at least three DWIs in a ten-year period will end up in canceled status. Also, if a person has at least five DWIs, or license revocations due to a DWI, then they often end up in canceled status regardless of how old the DWIs are on a person’s record. Basically, if you are facing a felony DWI, then you are almost assuredly in canceled status. In these scenarios, at least the first year will be a limited license with ignition interlock. Here is the checklist of items for someone looking to get on ignition interlock after having their license canceled. One of the main differences is that someone who has been canceled has to obtain a chemical use assessment and start following its recommendations before ignition interlock will be approved.
Be sure to stay up to date on all legislative changes. Often, bills are proposed that make ignition interlock mandatory for anyone who obtains a DWI, regardless of prior history or alcohol concentration levels. If you are ever in doubt, feel free to contact us for a consultation at no charge.