3rd Degree DWI

3rd Degree DWI in Minnesota is a gross misdemeanor offense. It is charged as a 3rd degree DWI because there was one aggravating factor present at the time of the offense (a prior offense within the past 10 years or a reading above .16) or the defendant refused to submit to the chemical test. There are possible mandatory penalties and long-term monitoring that may apply. In addition, your license plates will be revoked, unless you refused on a first-time offense.

The outcome will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In some, you may be able to get a Careless Driving – rather than a plea to a DWI – or a stay of imposition, but a plea to a 4th Degree DWI as a misdemeanor is also a positive, and more likely, outcome when facing gross misdemeanor consequences.


The likely outcome will depend on why it's a 3rd Degree DWI - i.e. it's a second-time offense within 10 years, the reading was above .16, or it's a refusal.

Second Offense within Ten Years - If the 3rd Degree DWI charge stems from this aggravating factor, mandatory penalties come into play. Namely, statute requires the driver to serve 30 days, with 48 hours to be serve consecutively in local jail and the remaining 28 days to be served on house arrest. Despite this being a mandatory penalty, there is always room for negotiation. With a proper legal strategy and team to implement it, this mandatory penalty can be overcome to avoid the time in custody, for instance.

.16 or more reading - A third degree DWI will be charged for first-time offenders who had elevated readings - i.e. twice the legal limit or more. There are no mandatory penalties. Often, the State attorney will want lengthier community service or even some jail time due to the high reading. But, like before, this is where a properly developed and implemented 3rd Degree DWI defense strategy can lead to very favorable results - such as a 4th Degree DWI plea, with a standard disposition to follow (no jail, minimal community service, and small fine).

Refusal - A 3rd Degree DWI Refusal is similar to a situation in which the driver had a high reading. There are no mandatory penalties, but prosecutors often seek stiffer penalties than a standard first-time offense. This is overcome easily with the right strategy, as detailed before.

Along with the criminal penalties, the collateral consequences are just as significant. The driver will lose their license for one-year. If it was a first-time refusal, the revocation period may be reduced to as little as 30- or 90-days if the driver was convicted of a misdemeanor 4th Degree DWI or 3rd Degree DWI Refusal, respectively. In addition, license plates may be impounded. Getting a fully valid license after the revocation period costs more than $700. These are the hidden costs associated with a DWI that make getting a 3rd Degree DWI attorney on your side immediately so critical.

Finally, even though a 3rd Degree DWI is only a gross misdemeanor, it is still a criminal offense and will force you to reveal to future employers that you have been convicted of a crime. Having an attorney to represent you will give you a greater chance of not serving jail time, possibly even allow you to plea down to a 4th degree DWI, or a careless driving conviction, depending on the circumstances of the offense.

Case Results

We have successfully defended countless DWI's for our clients, including negotiating DWI charges down to speeding tickets. Check out our DWI Case Results page to see more.

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North Star Criminal Defense - Proven Success in Fighting 3rd Degree DWI Charges

The Minnesota DWI attorneys at North Star Criminal Defense have nearly 30 combined years of successfully defending DWI charges of all degrees and throughout multiple jurisdictions. We know the law, the defenses, and the strategy necessary in order to obtain resolutions that avoid convictions and jail time. We have helped countless clients overcome these debilitating charges and get back on their feet. If you have been accused of any type a DWI, you need to contact us right away.

3rd Degree DWI Expungement

1 in 7 Minnesotans has a DWI on their record, and 49% of all Minnesota DWI arrests are of first time offenders. This means that 3rd Degree DWI is a relatively common conviction for Minnesotans. If you have a prior 3rd Degree DWI conviction and are looking to get that expunged off your record you can visit our DWI expungements page to see what options you may have to clear your record. We have experience expunging Minnesota DWI convictions all throughout the state, allowing our clients to move on with their lives. Even if you're not yet eligible, it will be beneficial to talk to us as we can start walking you through the process of getting your DWI expunged once you are eligible.