Bail & Conditional Release

Minnesota DWI Defense

When a person is arrested for a DWI, they may have to post “bail” to the court. This is designed to ensure their appearance at future court hearings, and/or have conditions imposed on their release (often referred to as “conditional release”). Depending on the circumstances of the case, bail or conditional release may be required by statute.

When Bail or Conditional Release is Not Required

Bail or conditional release is not required when it is a defendant's first- or second-time offense, no child is in the car, and the alcohol concentration level is below 0.16, or it is a first-time offense and the defendant refuses to submit to the implied consent test. Put differently, that means bail or conditional release is not required for the following levels of offenses:

  • 4th Degree DWI
  • 3rd Degree DWI – Refusal
  • 3rd Degree DWI (not resulting from child endangerment or a high reading as the aggravating factor)

Most times, when these factors are present, the defendant will be released to a sober third-party or held until they are sober to leave – which some jurisdictions require to be below .04 as a matter of policy.

One important caveat – the above general rules do not apply to a defendant with a driver’s license that is canceled as inimical to public safety.

Finally, it’s important to understand that mandatory bail or conditional release are only required when the defendant is arrested, taken into custody, and then detained until their first Court appearance – or until an attorney can get a judge to order bail before the court appearance. If the defendant is arrested and then released, mandatory bail is not required. An example may help in understanding this distinction.

When a person submits to a blood or urine test, it takes time for those results to return. If the results indicate an alcohol concentration above .16, then mandatory bail would have been required. But, because the person was already released, then the mandatory bail conditions are not required by statute. Some courts don’t know this nuance and may still feel inclined to order bail – which is another reason why it is critical to get an experienced attorney involved on your behalf right away.

When Bail or Conditional Release is Required

If the defendant is facing the following DWI charges, then mandatory bail or conditional release is required:

  • 3rd Degree DWI – because of child endangerment or a high reading
  • 2nd Degree DWI
  • 1st Degree DWI

The maximum mandatory bail for a 3rd or 2nd Degree DWI is $12,000.00. There is no maximum amount for a 1st Degree DWI – though, it can get into six-figures, depending on the circumstances, and conditions of release are also required (see below). If the court orders maximum bail, it will not include any other terms or conditions of the defendant's release. In lieu of paying this amount, the defendant may pay a bail bondsman to post the full amount on their behalf. A bail bondsman typically charges 10% of the bail amount to be posted.

Alternatively, the Court may deviate from the maximum bail and instead order a reduced bail amount and impose conditions of release, such as requiring the defendant to abstain from alcohol and to submit to electronic monitoring (usually an ankle bracelet) for the duration of the criminal matter. Electronic monitoring includes a daily fee that the defendant is responsible for. As a result, asking for and receiving conditional release may end up costing the defendant more than the maximum bail by the end of the matter after considering the reduced bail and daily electronic monitoring fees – especially when the criminal matter takes several months to resolve. Further, any violations of the conditions of release subject the defendant to further issues, such as potential jail-time. Consequently, it is usually best for a defendant to post the maximum bail rather than receiving conditional release.

Bail in Felony DWI Cases

As explained above, there is no maximum bail amount in a felony DWI case. But, unlike gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor cases, there is no alternative to receive conditional release. Felony DWI cases require both a significant bail amount and conditional release. The terms of the conditional release may include:

  • No use of alcohol or controlled substances;
  • Weekly reporting to a probation officer;
  • Random testing at least weekly; and
  • Any other conditions of release the Court deems appropriate.

For more on Minnesota’s DWI law, click here.