Penalties for your First DUI in Minnesota

When we talk with new clients who picked up their first DUI, we often get asked about the possible penalties they face. And, what is hard for most to comprehend – at least at first – is that, even for your first DUI, the penalties are both criminal and collateral. This means that the penalties can include both standard criminal sanctions, such as custody time and a fine, as well as collateral in the sense of losing your license and license plate. This blog will explain the likely penalties for your first DUI in Minnesota.

Criminal Penalties for Your First DUI

The likely criminal penalties will depend on the severity of the DUI, which is based on whether there are any aggravating factors. Those aggravating factors are: (1) an alcohol concentration level in excess of .16; (2) the presence of a child in the vehicle; and/or (3) any prior DUI offenses within ten years. If none of those are present, a first-time DUI is a misdemeanor 4th Degree DWI. If any one of those aggravating factors is present, the first-time DUI rises in severity to a gross misdemeanor 3rd Degree DWI. And if two or more aggravating factors are present, then it’s a gross misdemeanor 2nd Degree DWI.

Despite the severity rising with each additional aggravating factor, there is no mandatory jail time penalty for your first DUI. With that being said, the more serious the case, the more likely the State will seek jail or a jail alternative, such as house arrest or community work service, in plea negotiations. On top of possible jail time, the penalties for your first DUI include a fine (possibly even into four-figures), a chemical dependency assessment, a requirement to follow the recommendations in the assessment, complete a MADD victim impact panel, and/or probation for a year or more.

Collateral Penalties for Your First DUI 

Often, the collateral penalties for your first DUI are the most serious ones a defendant will deal with. These collateral penalties are directly tied to the alcohol concentration level.

For a first-time DUI under .16, the defendant will face a license revocation period initially of 90 days. With a conviction to a 4th Degree DWI, this would be reduced to 30 days – though, a conviction often comes well past these 30 days and even the initial 90 days to make it truly beneficial. There is no license plate impoundment under this scenario.

For a first-time DUI with an alcohol concentration of .16 or more, the license revocation jumps to one-year and it stays one-year no matter the outcome in the criminal case. At the same time, the license plates are impounded. Whiskey plates are then required for the one year revocation period and this applies to all vehicles registered or co-registered in the defendant’s name. It is not uncommon then to see the plate impoundment order apply to other family member’s vehicles, including a teenage child’s vehicle for instance.

Finally, any DUI conviction leads to a lasting criminal record. This leads to complications for defendants when applying for jobs, housing, professional licenses, etc. And while DUI’s are eligible to be expunged, these records have proven to be among the most difficult to get expunged. So, one should expect the conviction to last on their record for quite some time.

Minnesota DUI/DWI Attorneys You Can Count On

As you can see, the penalties for your first DUI are substantial and costly. You are looking at the possibility of custody time or an alternative, a fine, assessment, treatment, a MADD victim panel, probation, loss of license, and possibly the impoundment of your plates. Add in a lasting criminal record and this one-time mistake (hopefully) can leave a lasting mark on a defendant’s future. 

As experienced Minnesota DUI lawyers, we understand these nuances and how to best attack a DUI. We know what defenses to pursue, how to leverage certain facts about our clients and any proactive measures they take, and the importance of fighting for a non-DUI outcome, even when it seems unlikely. Because of this approach, we’ve had incredible success in defending first-time DUI offenders, including getting non-conviction outcomes – such as a stay of adjudication (which is nearly unheard of for DWI’s, except when we’re involved) – and non-DUI pleas to speeding tickets, failing to drive with due care, or careless driving (even when a client had a .15 alcohol concentration – again, an unheard of outcome at that high of a reading). If you are a first-time DUI offender, contact us immediately. Trust that you will have the right Minnesota DUI lawyer on your side.


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