First Degree DWI is a felony level offense in Minnesota. It does not get higher than that for a DWI in Minnesota. For a first-time felony DWI in Minnesota, the maximum punishment is up to seven years in prison and a $14,000 fine. A first-time felony DWI in Minnesota does not mean a person will go to prison, however. If you do not have any criminal history points, then worst case, you will often face a stayed prison sentence with the potential for local county jail time. If it is your second felony DWI in your lifetime, then you are very likely facing a presumptive commit to prison under the Minnesota sentencing guidelines.

One way a person can be charged with Felony First Degree DWI is if this new DWI is their fourth one in a ten-year period. Be mindful that you do not need all the prior DWIs in the past ten years to be DWI convictions. Merely, implied consent license revocations stemming from a DWI arrest can be enough to count as a prior designated offense for enhancement purposes. A first-time felony DWI can trigger a mandatory minimum sentence. This minimum sentence is thirty consecutive days in jail and one hundred and fifty days of house arrest. You may be able to avoid that mandatory minimum sentence in certain situations. Through the work of your defense attorney and discussions with the prosecutor and judge. Importantly, if you receive a stayed sentence, then you will have prison time hanging over your head. If you comply with probation and successfully complete your probationary term, then you are unlikely to ever serve that prison time. If you violate your probation, then it is possible for a judge to sentence you to prison time. It is not automatic, but rather you would go through the probation violation hearing process and arguments can be made to keep you out of prison.

If you have a prior felony DWI conviction, then you will likely be facing a presumptive commit to prison according to the Minnesota sentencing guidelines. The minimum sentence would be no less than thirty-six months in prison, but often a bit higher based on a likely criminal history score for a second time felony. Because of the potential liability at stake, these cases often end up being challenged in pre-trial motions and ultimately trial. Having your defense lawyer review your case for potential legal issues is paramount. Aside from litigating your case in court, your attorney may be able to work out a plea negotiation with the prosecutor to keep you out of prison. Absent those things, you can motion the court for a departure to keep you out of prison. This can be achieved if you can prove substantial and compelling circumstances that show you are amenable to probation or treatment. Getting a chemical dependency evaluation completed and following its recommendations early on in your case can often prove to be beneficial.

Another way to face a felony DWI is if you have a prior felony Criminal Vehicular Operation conviction according to the felony first degree DWI statute. Thus, even if you do not have a prior felony DWI conviction or this is your fourth DWI in ten years, you can still face a felony first degree DWI.

First Degree DWIs will also trigger lengthy driver’s license revocations and often involve a loss / seizure of your motor vehicle that was used during the incident. Minnesota’s laws are routinely changing over recent years on vehicle forfeitures. You have sixty days to challenge your vehicle being taken away by filing a complaint and demand for judicial determination. But, there are also other ways to get your vehicle back through the prosecutor’s office and law enforcement agency that seized your vehicle.

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