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In Minnesota, You Can Be Charged with DWI for Your Prescription Drugs

Minnesota Laws Regarding DWI and Prescription Drugs

According to Minnesota’s DWI laws (Statute 169A.20), impairment due to the use of prescription drugs is no less serious an offense than driving drunk, or under the influence of another controlled substance.  According to statute:

“It is a crime for any person to drive, operate, or be in physical control of any motor vehicle…when:

  • the person is under the influence of alcohol;
  • the person is under the influence of a controlled substance;
  • the person is knowingly under the influence of a hazardous substance that affects the nervous system, brain, or muscles of the person so as to substantially impair the person’s ability to drive or operate the motor vehicle (emphasis added).”

As far as Minnesota law is concerned, Alprazolam, in addition to a host of other legally-prescribed drugs, qualifies as a “hazardous substance” that affects the nervous system, brain or muscles.

DWI Includes Prescription Drugs in Every State

Most people assume that DWI includes only alcohol and illegal drugs.  That’s a mistake, potentially a costly one.  In every state in the U.S., you can be charged with DWI, and even incarcerated, if the court determines you were “impaired” because you used prescription drugs in accordance with your doctor’s instructions.

As Nolo points out in a recent post:

“…no state punishes only those people whose driving impairment resulted specifically from alcohol or illegal drugs alone. Someone impaired by legal drugs can ordinarily be found guilty and punished for driving while under the influence in the same way as any drunk driver.”

The Penalties for DWI in Minnesota

In Minnesota, there are both administrative and criminal sanctions for DWI.  The severity of those sanctions is a function of the driver’s current and past record of impaired driving offenses.  Administrative sanctions could include license revocation, vehicle plate impoundment and vehicle forfeiture.  Criminal sanctions range from 90 days in jail and a fine of $1,000 for a misdemeanor violation (usually a first offense without aggravating factors), to a felony punishable by up to 7 years imprisonment and a fine of $14,000 (typically for a 4th offense within a 10-year period).


At Segal Defense, we know Minnesota criminal law and can customize a defense to the specific facts of your case.  Charles Segal has more than 20 years of criminal law experience in Minnesota and has been recognized as one of the top 100 DWI attorneys in the state by the National Advocacy for DUI Defense (NAFDD), and one of the top criminal defense lawyers in Minnesota by the American Society of Legal Advocates (ASLA).  If you are facing criminal charges and need the best defense possible, contact us today.

The information presented in this article is not considered legal advice. Please contact our law office to speak to an attorney about your case.