A common question asked by people charged with DWI is whether they have a defense or not – after all, their blood, breath or urine had an alcohol concentration of .08 or more. The answer is yes. Even though DWI laws are strict, complicated, and getting more and more harsh, an experienced DWI lawyer will recognize the weaknesses in the State’s case and can exploit them to your benefit.
In the criminal realm, Minnesota’s DWI laws are some of the most complex. The laws are so complex that the Minnesota legislature has dedicated an entire chapter to the subject: Chapter 169A. Short (and extremely technical) novels could be written on the subject. Instead of detailing the numerous scenarios that a person can find himself in, a brief summary of the principles will be outlined to provide a general understanding of the law. If you have any DWI related concerns, contact us today to discuss your situation in much more detail. First, a brief description of Minnesota’s DWI laws.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION AND AGGRAVATING FACTORS
Minnesota’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is .08. It is also a crime to consume any amount of alcohol that impairs your ability to operate a motor vehicle regardless of the concentration in your blood. Further, any amount of a schedule I or II controlled substance in your blood or urine is considered driving while impaired. Aggravating factors include having a minor present in the vehicle, prior convictions or losses of license within the preceding 10 years, and having an alcohol concentration of .16 or more. Refusing an offered breath test is a more serious crime.
There are two common scenarios that lead to felony DWI charges. The first scenario is when a person is arrested for DWI after three or more convictions or DWI related losses of license within the last 10 years. The second scenario is when a person has a felony level alcohol related driving conviction in their lifetime.
LOSS OF LICENSE
Immediately upon arrest for DWI, law enforcement will issue the driver a notice of license revocation. Once received, the person has thirty days to file a petition in court to challenge the officer’s unilateral decision to take their license away. If the person misses the deadline, he or she will lose their license and will always have an alcohol related loss of license on their record even if the criminal charges are completely dismissed. It is imperative that you contact a lawyer if you receive such a notice from law enforcement. In other scenarios where an alcohol or blood or urine analysis is not immediately available, the Department of Public Safety will mail the notice to the address listed on the driver’s license. There will be an effective date on the notice along with the same thirty day time frame to challenge the revocation. It is equally imperative to contact a lawyer in that scenario. The loss of license is a separate proceeding than the criminal case, and if you wait for your first appearance to address the issue, it may be too late. Further, the prosecutor and the judge will inform you they have no control over the administrative license revocation.
The period of license revocation can range from 30 days to 6 years depending on the driver’s prior offenses and current aggravating factors. In some scenarios, the driver’s license will be canceled as inimical to public safety and a rehabilitation process will be required. It is important to know that no matter what the time frame, Adam Johnson and David Lundgren can assist you in getting back on the road so you can continue living your life and making a living. It is equally important to know that there are numerous challenges that can be made, and if successful, will result in rescission (reversal) of the administrative license revocation.
If a driver provides a blood alcohol concentration sample of .16 or more, or has multiple DWI convictions or losses of license, then the State will impound the driver’s regular license plates on every vehicle titled in the person’s name. The driver will be required to purchase special series registration plates, commonly referred to as Whiskey Plates. They are all white and start with the letter W. They are unmistakably noticeable and carry a stigma to them. The driver will be required to only operate vehicles that have those plates. If the driver purchases a new car, he will be required to obtain special series registration plates for that vehicle as well. However, just as with the loss of license, you can have a lawyer challenge the plate impoundment in court and have a judge decide if its lawful or appropriate. The same thirty day period applies.
MOTOR VEHICLE FORFEITURE
If you are convicted of Second Degree DWI, First Degree DWI, or any level of DWI if your license is canceled as inimical to public safety or restricted to no use of alcohol, the State can and will take and keep the vehicle you were driving at the time. Depending on the circumstances, they may initiate the process by formal complaint. In that scenario, you have twenty days to answer the complaint or the forfeiture will be final. Otherwise, you will be notified of an administrative forfeiture and it will be your responsibility to file a formal, civil complaint in district court to challenge the forfeiture within 60 days of receiving the notice. In either situation, it is in your best interest to contact a lawyer immediately once your car is taken to determine if it is in your best financial interest to challenge the forfeiture. Adam Johnson and David Lundgren have worked successfully to recoup many of their client’s vehicles and saved them from forfeiture.
COMPLEX DWI LAWS ARE SUSCEPTIBLE TO NUMEROUS DEFENSES – HAVE A DWI LAWYER USE THEM TO YOUR ADVANTAGE.
Now, more than ever, Minnesota’s DWI laws and testing process are being successfully challenged by knowledgeable DWI lawyers. From the decision to stop your vehicle until completion of the testing process, there are legal challenges that can be made and questions that can be raised about the reliability and accuracy of the process. Further, the law itself with regard to blood and urine samples have been called into question by Minnesota appellate courts and in some circumstances have been found to be unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court. Moreover, the DataMaster machine which the State relies upon to determine a person’s blood alcohol concentration has an uncertainty of measurement that calls into question the accuracy of the test itself even when there have been no errors in the testing process. This error is inherent in the machine and has an approximate accepted value of +/- .01 which the State deems acceptable.
Luckily for you, the State does not get to decide who is guilty or innocent. Hire the lawyers who understand the strengths of your defense, the weakness in the State’s case, and the legal challenges most likely to succeed – call us to discuss your DWI case today. To see a sampling of our results in DWI/DUI cases, click here. For more information, click here to read our guide on the seven essential steps to take following your arrest for DWI/DUI.