What Is The Difference Between a DWI and a DUI?
There really isn’t that much of a difference. In Minnesota, the term DWI is technically more accurate as the title of the Statute. Minnesota Statute §169A.20 describes the offense as Driving While Impaired, which encompasses driving under the influence (DUI) of various substances, including alcohol, drugs or other intoxicating agents. The statute also covers the offense of driving with unacceptable amounts of these various substances in your bloodstream.
The Pretrial / Omnibus Hearing
Before your trial, if it gets to that, your DWI or DUI specialist lawyer will file motions. These motions address various constitutional issues. They might include:
- The reason your car was stopped
- Whether the officer had a reasonable basis to pull you over
- Your legal right to counsel
- Whether the officer performed the required Miranda rights
- Whether there was a lack of probable cause for your arrest
- Other specific issues related to your case
These motions take place at court hearings referred to as Pretrial or Omnibus hearings. Police officers, jail staff and / or defendants sometimes offer the Judge their testimonies during these hearings. Depending on your specific case and situation, you yourself may even be required to testify. According to Minnesota law, the Judge present at your hearing must issue a ruling within 90 days of this hearing, determining how your DWI or DUI case will proceed.
What Will Happen At The Trial?
You have the right to request a trial by jury if your offense is deemed to be a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor. If you haven’t been charged with more than 3 DWI or DUI offenses in the past 10 years, you can expect the trial to last 1-2 days, and the jury to amount to 6 individuals residing in the county in which you have been charged. If however you already have 3 DUI or DWI charges accumulated within the last 10 years, you will go through what is called a felony trial. In Minnesota, a felony trial means you have the right to be judged by a jury of 12 individuals from your own county.
The first step of any trial is the selection of the individuals who will make up the jury. Jury selection can take several hours, as your attorney will do his or her best to find jury members that will be impartial and that will be able to review and judge your case in a neutral fashion. Once everyone agrees on who will constitute the jury, the Prosecutor in your case will make his or her opening statement, explaining to the jury their understanding of your case and the reason and way he or she will go about convincing them that you are guilty of driving while impaired or driving under the influence. It will then be your attorney’s turn to make his or her opening statement. He or she will take advantage of this time to show the jury what problems or flaws he or she sees in the Prosecutor’s case. This might include showing that the Intoxilyzer test was inaccurate, that the blood draw wasn’t performed properly or any other process that might not be valid depending on the specifics of your case.
Once both parties have made their opening statements, witnesses will be called to testify. These witnesses might include the police officer who arrested you, the individual who performed the Intoxilyzer test and any other person the Prosecutor believes will help convict you of a DWI or DUI. Your lawyer’s approach during this time will be to get involved in the questioning process and point out any inconsistency in each of the witness’s testimony. Once the Prosecutor is finished presenting his or her case, it will be your turn to call witnesses to the bar. These witnesses will be called to help show that you are not guilty of committing a DWI or DUI and might include individuals such as eyewitnesses, passengers who were with you at the time of the arrest, or a blood alcohol expert who can explain why the test was not performed properly and should therefore be disregarded. At the end of testimonies, both your lawyer and the Prosecutor will make their closing statements and the members of the jury will be asked to proceed to the Jury Room to deliberate on your case. This means they will review the evidence and testimonies of all the witnesses, discuss the Prosecutor and your lawyer’s arguments and ultimately come to an unanimous decision on whether or not you are guilty of the crime for which you were charged.
As you can see from these proceedings, trial is not a simple process. This is an outline of how processes go for the most part, but as every trial is different, many twists and turns can influence whether or not you will walk away free and without conviction. This is why it is extremely important that you contact a lawyer specializing in DUI and DWI cases as soon as possible. Not just any generalist attorney can successfully navigate the complex and intricate laws that are specific to DUI and DWI cases. Thankfully for you, in Minnesota, you can count on the expert advice and representation that Kohlmeyer Hagen Law Office Chtd. has to offer.
What Are Negotiations?
Many cases do not even go to trial, as they are settled by entering into plea bargains with the prosecutor. During negotiations, your attorney will speak with the Prosecutor and point out the problems, flaws and gaps he or she sees in the Prosecutor’s case. In order for negotiations to turn in your favor, and hopefully avoid you having to go to trial, your attorney must be extremely skilled and experienced in handling DWI and DUI cases. The best outcomes in negotiations literally come down to how well your attorney can study and take apart the Prosecutor’s case to prove to them that they will not get a conviction by going through trial, and to convince them that it is better for everyone involved to settle the case outside of the courtroom through the negotiation process.
If you have been charged with a DWI or DUI in Minnesota, call the Law Office of Kohlmeyer Hagen Law Office Chtd. without delay. We will be happy to put our years of experience in DUI and DWI cases at your service to help you put this experience behind you and move on with your life.
DWI / DUI Penalties in Minnesota
As skilled and experienced as your DWI or DUI attorney may be, each case is different and the outcome cannot always be predicted to be in your favor. There are many variables that are involved in every case. Between the witnesses’ testimonies, the Prosecutor’s strategy and the though processes of the members of the jury, there is always a possibility that you will be convicted of a DUI or DWI. If this happens, under Minnesota law, you will be entitled to a sentencing hearing following your plea or trial, at which time the Judge will decide what punishment, fine and / or sentencing you will be given.
Before attending your sentencing hearing, you will be given a Pre-Sentence Investigation (PSI). The PSI is a meeting between yourself and a probation agent during which you will be given the opportunity to explain things as you see them and put your version of events on record. PSI meetings can be extremely intimidating and stressful for you, as the probation agent will also be asking you a lot of questions and putting your answers in writing. It is your attorney’s responsibility to prepare you for this meeting and take whatever time necessary to ensure you understand what is involved, what to expect and how to navigate through it. Depending on the probation agent assigned to your case, your meeting should last about an hour. Some agents take longer, some take less time, and the length of the meeting will also depend on the specifics of your case. A few weeks after your meeting, the probation agent will send his or her written recommendation on what your punishment, fine or sentencing should be, both to the Prosecutor and your attorney. As soon as your lawyer receives this document, it is his or her responsibility to share it with you, review it and ensure you understand it, then discuss the next steps and your options.
In Minnesota, the Prosecutor can go back 10 years in your records to determine if you have been convicted of a DWI or DUI or have lost your driver’s license due to being intoxicated while driving. The Judge will also be notified of any such events that might have happened longer than in the past 10 years.
Here are the mandatory minimum sentences for DUIs or DWIs in Minnesota:
All of this does not mean that you will necessarily be sentenced or fined the minimum penalty, but it is more than likely that the Prosecutor will request it. At the sentencing hearing, you will be allowed to present any reference letters, statements, documents, pictures, etc. that you and your attorney think will help your case.
The Criminal penalties for convicted DWI / DUI offenders in Minnesota can be extreme. They range from no jail time and a low fine to up to 6 years in prison. Every county in Minnesota has different sentences for driving while impaired. It is therefore of the utmost importance that your lawyer understands this, and knows the differences in sentencing across Minnesota’s many counties.
In addition to fines and jail or prison time, Minnesota DWI punishment in criminal court might include mandatory DWI alcohol education courses, DWI driver’s license consequences, such as revoking of your license, personal or commercial, and more. There are various levels of sentencing, as well. Even a first offense DWI or DUI can earn the offender up to one year in jail and a fine of $3,000. The severity of the offense, and consequently of the punishment, will depend on various factors such as how high your blood alcohol content was at the time of your arrest or whether or not a child was present in the car.
The punishment gradually gets much harsher for any repeated DWI / DUI offense. Some of the consequences include:
- A mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days in jail
- Community service
- Immediate impound of your vehicle
- Forfeiture of your vehicle
Minnesota DWI laws makes a fourth DUI / DWI conviction within 10 years a felony. Minnesota DWI law for a felony driving while intoxicated conviction means a sentence of three years in prison and a fine of no less than $14,000.
Minnesota law will rank all DWI or DUI convictions using a four-tier rating system, the 1st degree being the more serious and leading to the most severe of punishments, and the 4th degree being used to sentence first time offenders with no aggravating factors.
License Information: The Judge and Your License
So If I’m Innocent, The Judge Will Give Me Back My Driver’s License, Right?
Wrong. Many people believe that the Judge overseeing your DUI or DWI trial has the authority to take or give you back your driver’s license. This is false. In Minnesota, in order to get your driver’s license back or to ensure that no charges will appear on your record, you are required to file a separate civil lawsuit, called a Petition For Judicial Review or an “Implied Consent Petition”. This lawsuit must be filed within 30 days of your arrest (not your conviction), so it is very important to start proceedings as quickly as possible.
What if I REALLY need my license?
The fact you really need your license is not a factor. Neither the Judge or the Department of Public Safety, Motor Vehicle Division, will take this into consideration when sentencing or deciding whether or not to revoke your license.
But what if I REALLY, REALLY need my license to work, and to take care of my family’s needs?
Unfortunately, in Minnesota, the law does not allow for any exceptions that would enable you to get your driver’s license back. DWI / DUI laws seem to be written based on areas such as Minneapolis/St. Paul, which have reliable and extensive public transportation systems. Unfortunately, what it really comes down to if you live in St. James, Mankato, St. Peter, Fairmont or Jackson is that you simply can not use alternative ways of getting around like taking the bus, light-rail, or even a taxi, and that is not factored into the Judge’s decision of giving you a work permit or your driver’s license back.
If you lost your driver’s license and do not have access to alternative public transportation, you need to explore other ways of going about your life. Here are a few suggestions that will allow you to get around even though you cannot drive:
- Ask friends, relatives, co-workers or neighbors to car pool
- Hire someone to drive you around for a few weeks
- Wherever possible, ask the grocery store to deliver your groceries
- If possible, consider riding a bicycle to work
Of course, you need to consider whether your current wages are worth the money you might spend on various services, like a hired driver. Your best option remains to hire a skilled DWI or DUI attorney who might be able to get you your driver’s license back
What is a Work Permit?
In Minnesota, a work permit is a driver’s license granted with conditions for individuals whose driver’s license has been revoked following a DUI or DWI conviction. Minnesota’s work permits have very specific limitations, which might include how many hours a day you are allowed to drive, where you are allowed to drive to and for what reasons. In most cases, the work permit specifies that the holder is allowed to drive only to and from work, but other conditions may be added depending on your specific situation.
How Can I Get A Work Permit?
First, you need to find out whether or not you are eligible for a work permit. You should discuss this with your DUI / DWI lawyer as soon as the decision has been made by the judge to revoke your driver’s license. Your attorney will review your case and, depending on various factors such as the severity of your conviction and whether or not this was your first offense, determine whether or not you are eligible for a work permit. If it is determined that you are eligible, here are the steps to follow in order to request and receive your Minnesota work permit:
1. Go to your local Driver’s License Testing Bureau.
2. Pay the $680 driver’s license reinstatement fee.
3. Take the driver’s license test. Obtaining a work permit requires you to take the written portion of the driver’s license test on a computer.
4. Request your work permit, also known as a “limited license”.
5. The Driver’s License Testing Bureau will then ask you to call the Department of Public Safety. This is to determine when and where you can drive, as well as any additional limitations and conditions will affect your work permit.
6. You must then wait the required waiting period.
How Long Must I Wait Before Being Granted My Work Permit?
In Minnesota, the required waiting period to be granted a work permit varies as it depends on the specifics of your case. In most cases however, individuals requesting a work permit are required to wait at minimum half their driver’s license suspension period before being eligible for a work permit, or limited license.