DWI Degrees: Driving while impaired in Minnesota.

There are four degrees of driving while impaired (DWI) offenses in Minnesota that relate to the varying seriousness of the charge. The lower the offense the higher the degree (for example: A 4th degree DWI is a misdemeanor offense whereas a 1st degree DWI is a felony offense). The punishment to be imposed depends on the degree of the DWI conviction, prior DWI convictions or prior driver’s license revocations as well as the presence of any aggravating factors.

1st Degree (§169.24):

  • That the driver committed the [current DWI] violation within ten (10) years of three or more qualified prior impaired driving incidents; or
  • That the driver has previously been convicted of a felony DWI under this section.

Explanation: A person may be charged with first degree DWI if the current DWI is the person’s 4th DWI violation within the last 10 years or if the person has been convicted of a felony DWI previously.

Corresponding Criminal Penalty
1st Degree: Felony; if convicted, the defendant may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than seven (7) years and less than three (3) years or to payment of a fine of not more than $14,000, or both.

If the current DWI offense is the fourth DWI offense within the last 10 years the mandatory minimum jail sentence is:

A minimum of 180 days of incarceration, at least 30 days of which must be served consecutively, a program of intensive supervision that requires the person to serve consecutively at least six days, or a program of staggered sentencing involving a minimum of 180 days of incarceration, at least 30 days of which must be served consecutively.

If the current DWI offense is the fifth or greater DWI offense within the last 10 years the mandatory minimum jail sentence is:

A minimum of one (1) year of incarceration, at least 60 days of which must be served consecutively, a program of intensive supervision that requires the person to serve consecutively at least six days, or a program of staggered sentencing involving a minimum of 180 days of incarceration, at least 60 days of which must be served consecutively.

2nd Degree (§169A.25):

  • A person is guilty of a 2nd degree DWI if two or more aggravating factors are present; or
  • a person is guilty of a 2nd degree DWI if they also violate §169A.20, subd. 2 (test refusal) and one aggravating circumstance was present when the violation was committed.

Explanation: A person may be charged with a second degree DWI if: 1) the current offense includes two or more aggravating factors (examples two prior DWI convictions or driver’s license revocations within the past 10 years; greater than .20 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test coupled with a prior DWI within the past 10 years; driving with a minor in the car while under the influence with a prior DWI within the past 10 years) or 2) the person is charged with refusal and has a prior DWI within the past 10 years.

Corresponding Criminal Penalty
2nd Degree: Gross Misdemeanor; if convicted, the defendant may be subject to the mandatory penalties in §169.275 and long-term monitoring in §169A.277.

If the current DWI offense is the third offense within the last 10 years, the mandatory minimum jail sentence is:

A minimum of 90 days of incarceration, at least 30 days of which must be served consecutively or a program of intensive supervision that requires the person to consecutively serve at least six days in a local corrections facility.

The court may order that the person serve not more than 60 days of the minimum penalty on electronic home monitoring or in an intensive probation program.

3rd Degree (§169A.26):

  • A person is guilty of a third degree DWI if one aggravating factor is present;
  • or a person is guilty of a third degree DWI if they violate §169A.20, subd. 2 (refusal).

Corresponding Criminal Penalty
3rd Degree: Gross Misdemeanor; if convicted, the defendant may be subject to the mandatory penalties in §169.275 and long-term monitoring in §169A.277.

Explanation: A person may be charged with third degree DWI if: 1) the current offense involves one aggravating factor (example: a prior DWI within the past 10 years; a BAC test in excess of .20; driving while under the influence with a minor in the car) or 2) the person is charged with refusal to test.

If the current DWI offense is the second offense within the last 10 years the mandatory minimum jail sentence is:

A minimum of 30 days of incarceration, at least 48 hours of which must be served consecutively or eight hours of community work service for each day less than 30 days that the person is ordered to serve in a local correctional facility.

4th Degree (§169A.27):
A person who violates §169A.20, subd. 1, with no aggravating factors and without a violation of §169A.220, subd. 2 (refusal), is guilty of a fourth degree DWI.

Explanation: A person may be charged with a fourth degree DWI if: The current offense involves no aggravating factors. Usually this is the person’s first DWI on record, or the person has prior DWI convictions that are 10 years or more old. The person’s blood alcohol concentration test must be less than .20.

Corresponding Criminal Penalty
4th Degree: Misdemeanor; No mandatory penalties exist for a fourth degree DWI.

Charged with drunk driving? Contact Minnesota attorney Erik J. Olson for your free DWI consultation.