DWI – drunk driving – is a charge that can make anyone panic. Losing your drivers’ license means a loss of independence and can even result in the loss of your job. Most states do not consider all DWI cases to be equal and have a list of both mitigating and aggravating factors that can affect the penalties you will face, including how long you will be without a license, whether you will face jail time, and whether you may be forced to have your car fitted with an ignition lock.
One of the things which can make a DWI case worse is a prior impaired driving incident. The law on what constitutes one varies by state, but the overall point is that it shows a pattern of driving while intoxicated that increases the chance that you will do it again.
Specifically, under Minnesota law, a qualified prior impaired driving incident within the preceding ten years is considered an aggravating factor. This can increase the “tier” of a DWI conviction and will always elevate it from a mere misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor, greatly increasing the fine and potential jail time involved. Three incidents within ten years will raise it to first degree DWI, which is a felony (with all that entails, including the possible loss of your job).
So, what is a qualified prior impaired driving incident? It is a DWI that involved a conviction or a loss of license. If the incident involved both, it still only counts as one qualified incident. Implied consent revocations can result in a loss of operating privileges without a conviction, which also counts as a qualified incident. In other words, every time you receive a conviction or lose your operating privileges for DWI it is a “strike” that lasts for ten years. Note that this does not just include alcohol, but Schedule I or II drugs, including marijuana. If you are accused of third degree DWI (a third violation within ten years) you could be held in jail until trial unless you post maximum bail or agree to abstain from alcohol altogether (even when not driving).
Additionally, qualified prior driving incidents stack with the other two aggravating factors under Minnesota Law – an AC of .16 or more on arrest or the presence of a child under 16 in the vehicle (unless the offender is less than 36 months older than the child). It can be very easy to push even a second offense up into the higher tiers with more severe punishments.
Staying sober behind the wheel is obviously the best way you avoid qualified prior impaired driving incidents. If you do obtain a conviction, then you need to be particularly careful. The ten year limitation is long enough to cause problems for anyone and the best course of action is not to drink (or use drugs) and drive in the first place. First degree DWI in Minnesota can carry a jail term of up to seven years and can result in the impoundment of your vehicle’s registration plates or even the impoundment or forfeiture of the vehicle itself.
If you are facing a DWI trial, whether or not you have qualified prior impaired driving incidents, then you will need a good lawyer who focuses on defending clients facing DWI or DUI charges. A good lawyer can also help you after the fact when it comes to trying to get your driver’s license reinstated or fighting vehicle forfeiture. An experienced attorney who is familiar with the complexities of the law in Minnesota can help you get the best outcome possible in your case and protect your rights even at this difficult time. To request a free consultation, contact Segal Defense, P.A.
The information presented in this article is not considered legal advice. Please contact our law office to speak to an attorney about your case.