Will I serve jail time if I am arrested for a first-time DWI in Hennepin County, Minnesota?

alcohol MN Laws

Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

If you are arrested for a driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Hennepin County, the police take you to jail and you are either “booked and released” a mailed a court date or if your charge requires a mandatory court appearance, held in custody until you appear in front of a Hennepin County judge. Anyone charged with a DWI does not want to appear in court without legal representation at their side, including the very first time going in front of the judge.

At Neuville Law Office, the goals when representing clients facing a DWI charge are straight-forward:

  • Try to get the criminal charges dismissed or reduced, if possible
  • Avoid a permanent criminal record
  • Avoid serving any jail time
  • Minimize court fines/fees
  • Get your driving privileges fully restored as quickly as possible

The facts and circumstances of each case, however, including the assigned judge and prosecuting attorney, require a unique defense strategy for each case in Hennepin County.

Prosecutors are different – whether arrested for DWI in Bloomington, Minneapolis, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Edina or Hopkins – many prosecutors approach criminal charges differently, some seeking harsher or more lenient plea bargains.

Likewise, different judges in Hennepin County may have slightly different approaches when determining lawful or unlawful police conduct, or imposing fines and/or jail time for a DWI, which may also impact the strategy of defending a criminal case in Hennepin County.

What happens following arrest for first-time DWI in Hennepin County?

Typically, after the police officer develops probable cause to arrest someone for DWI, the arrested person will be transported to a nearby police station or the Public Safety Facility in downtown Minneapolis, where the arrested person is subjected to chemical testing.

If the arrested person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) result is twice the legal limit (0.16 or higher) the arrested person will be held in custody until a Hennepin County judge sets release conditions.

Under Minnesota law, if someone is arrested for DWI and their BAC is at or above 0.16, the Hennepin County judge is required to:

(1) Set unconditional bail at the maximum dollar amount, which is $12,000 for a gross misdemeanor DWI, or

(2) Consider less or no monetary bail and requires conditions of release, such total alcohol abstention, and mandatory alcohol testing/monitoring while the case is pending.

In other words, if someone is arrested for DWI in Hennepin County and their BAC is 0.16 or higher, the arrested person will be required to do one of the following:

  • Post maximum bail with the court, $12,000 (or through a bond company, which usually charge 10% or $1,200), or
    • Post little or zero monetary bail in order to be released from custody, but be subjected to an alcohol abstention order and be subjected to daily alcohol monitoring while the criminal case is pending, or
      • Remain in custody until their DWI criminal case is resolved.

If the arrested person is charged with a misdemeanor DWI and the arresting officer (or his or her superior) determines that further detention is not justified, the arrested person must be immediately released.

An arrested person who is not released must be brought before a Hennepin County judge as soon as possible. Under Minnesota Criminal Rules of Procedure, the arrested person must be brought before a judge without unnecessary delay, and not more than 36 hours after the arrest, excluding the day of arrest, Sundays, and legal holidays. In misdemeanor cases, an arrested person who is not brought before a judge within the 36-hour limit must be released.

Are there legal defenses for a DWI in Hennepin County?

Yes. Anyone charged in criminal court always has the right to be represented by a competent attorney and the right to present a defense at a jury trial. In a criminal trial, every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. No one is ever required to plead guilty, or take any plea bargain offered by the prosecution.

Often times in criminal court however, cases are resolved with a plea bargain, particularly if the prosecuting attorney makes a favorable offer. In my experience as a Hennepin County criminal defense attorney, the most effective way to get the best plea bargain offer from the prosecutor is:

  1. File legal defenses/challenges with the judge contesting the prosecutor’s evidence, or
  2. Schedule your case for a jury trial.

There are a number of defenses or challenges that can be raised in Hennepin County court to fight a DWI arrest including, but not limited to:

  • Challenging the initial basis for the traffic stop. If the arresting officer did not have reasonable articulable suspicion to make a traffic stop, any incriminating evidence may be inadmissible in court and the charges dismissed.
  • Challenging the basis to expand the scope of the traffic stop by investigating the DWI, administering the standard field sobriety tests and a road-side breathe test without a warrant.
  • Challenging whether the arresting officer properly advised the arrested person of their right to speak with an attorney the following arrest but prior to chemical testing.
  • Challenging whether the arresting officer properly administers the chemical test following a valid observational period.
  • Challenging whether the chemical test result is accurate.

If the arresting officer violated the arrested person’s rights in any way during the course of the investigation or the breath testing process, the evidence may be deemed inadmissible and the charges could be dismissed.

What are the penalties for a first-time DWI in Hennepin County?

In Hennepin County, a criminal conviction for DWI can result in incarceration, supervised probation, fines, chemical dependency treatment, and an abstention order – meaning no alcohol consumption while on probation – while being subjected to random alcohol testing.

The criminal penalties for a first-time misdemeanor Fourth Degree DWI (BAC under 0.16, or otherwise impaired) in Hennepin County include up to 90 days in county jail and up to a $1,000.00 fine.

However, serving jail time on a first-time misdemeanor DWI conviction in Hennepin County is unlikely. Unless the facts of the first-time DWI are particularity egregious, most prosecutors do not seek jail time for a first-time Fourth Degree DWI in Hennepin County. In my experiences, many first-time Fourth Degree DWI cases can be reduced to Careless Driving or another lesser charge.

Additionally, in Hennepin County most DWI convictions result in supervised probation, which means the case is assigned to a probation agent who monitors the probationer’s compliance. Alternatively, under some circumstances, defendants receive “administrative” probation, where no agent is assigned to the case and supervision is minimal, if any.

In most instances, anyone convicted of Fourth Degree DWI in Hennepin County is ordered to complete the Hennepin County 1-day DWI Program. The Hennepin County 1-day DWI Program is offered numerous times throughout the year at various locations around Hennepin County. The Hennepin County 1-day DWI Program costs $385.00.

As an experienced DWI criminal defense attorney in Hennepin County, I have represented hundreds of clients from Minneapolis, Bloomington, Minnetonka, Eden Prairie, Edina, Maple Grove, Plymouth, Hopkins, St. Louis Park, and other cities around Hennepin County and throughout the state of Minnesota.

Typically, for a first-time Fourth Degree DWI, most prosecutors in Hennepin County seek 30 days of stayed jail time as part of any plea bargain. This does not mean you serve 30 days in jail; rather, the 30 days of jail are “hanging” over your head for up to two years of probation. As long as you remain law-abiding and otherwise follows the terms of probation, you will never serve any of those 30 days of stayed jail time.

Some prosecutors seek two days of community service with any first-time Fourth Degree DWI conviction. In Hennepin County community service typically means Sentence to Service (STS) which includes roadside cleanup.

Will I do jail time for a first-time gross misdemeanor DWI in Hennepin County?

A person convicted of first-time aggravated Third Degree DWI (refusal, BAC at or above 0.16, or minor children in the vehicle at time of offense) faces up to 365 days in jail and up to a $3,000.00 fine. Serving significant jail time for a first-time gross misdemeanor DWI in Hennepin County is unlikely, but some aggressive prosecutors may seek some executed jail time or STS, in addition to 180-275 days of stayed jail time.

If, however, the arrested person’s driving conduct substantially endangered public safety or the BAC result was three or even four times the legal limit, many aggressive prosecutors in Hennepin County may seek 10-20 days of executed jail time or more, or substantial STS as part of any plea bargain. If you’re convicted of gross misdemeanor DWI in Hennepin County, you may be facing higher fines and period of probation for 3-6 years.

Typically, for a gross misdemeanor DWI conviction, prosecutors and judges require an alcohol assessment, or the Hennepin County 1-day DWI Program as part of any plea bargain. The typical fine for a gross misdemeanor DWI in Hennepin County can range from $500-$900 plus approximately $78.00 in fees. If you’re BAC result was at or above 0.16, some prosecutors seek an increased penalty assessment for the fine.

What are the driver’s license penalties for a first-time DWI in Hennepin County?

Administrative penalties include the revocation of the arrested person’s driver’s license. The length of the revocation period may vary depending on the circumstances of each case. Typically, if someone has an otherwise clean driving record, the State will revoke the arrested person’s driver’s license for 90 days for a first-time Fourth Degree DWI in Hennepin County.

If the arrested person pleads guilty to misdemeanor DWI, the revocation period can be reduced to 30 days. If the arrested person refuses a chemical test or has a BAC at or above 0.16 (twice the legal limit) the arresting officer will notify the Commissioner of Public Safety to revoke their driver’s license for one year.

Can I challenge my driver’s license revocation resulting from a DWI arrest in Hennepin County?

Yes. When the State revokes someone’s driver’s license following a DWI arrest, the arrested person has the right to file a petition in Hennepin County Civil Court for judicial review, and challenge whether the State has a lawful basis to take away their license. Failing to challenge the Implied Consent driver’s license revocation results in a permanent DWI on the arrested person’s driving record, which can be used to enhance any future DWI criminal charges in Minnesota for the following 10 years.

In Hennepin County, when a driver’s license is revoked for a DWI, most people are able to get their license temporarily reinstated while the criminal case and civil Implied Consent judicial review are pending in Hennepin County criminal and civil court.

In other words, if you are arrested for a DWI in Hennepin County, you may be able to legally drive while your criminal case is pending. Although the timeframe for every case is different, typically a DWI case in Hennepin County criminal court can take anyway from 6-12 months to resolve, sometimes even longer.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a DWI in Hennepin County, call Attorney Luke Neuville, owner of Neuville Law Office, for a free consultation to discuss the specific details of the Hennepin County DWI charge.