Minnesota DWI: Criminal and Civil Consequences

Learn about the criminal and civil penalties you may face if you are convicted of a DWI in Minnesota.

Drunk driving is a serious problem with serious consequences. Minnesota has the third most DWIs per capita of any state in the nation. 1 in 7 Minnesota drivers have had at least one DWI in their lifetime.

Driving under the influence is a prominent issue in the state of Minnesota. It is important that all Minnesota drivers be aware of the consequences of drunk driving.

The legal and financial consequences of even a first offense DWI are serious, and can affect a convicted driver for many years to come, making driving impossible, causing employment problems and giving the driver a criminal record which can cause issues for life.

Below is an overview of typical issues surrounding a DWI case in Minnesota, as well as some more detail on specific issues.


The following chart outlines the criminal and civil consequences of each degree of Minnesota DWI:

DWI Degree

Jail (Max)

Fine (Max)

DL Revocation


Fourth Degree

90 days


30 – 90 days


*Third Degree – Refusal

1 year


1 year


Third Degree

1 year


180 days


Second Degree

1 year


180 days - 1year +


First Degree

7 years


3 years +


“Not a drop” (18 – 21)

90 days


180 days

See above


Criminal Consequences

Criminal consequences of a Minnesota DWI charge include: bail and conditions of release from custody, jail time, probation, court-ordered chemical dependency evaluation, and random testing.

Jail Time and Fines

Jail time and fines vary based on the degree and circumstances of the DWI charge. See the chart below for specific information by degree of DWI.


Probation is meant to help the DWI offender in reintegrating into society as a law abiding citizen. For DWI offenders placed on probation, the Minnesota legislature and courts have placed a high level of importance on alcohol treatment and rehabilitation. While on probation, offenders are subject to random drug and alcohol testing. They are also often required to obtain a chemical dependency evaluation and psychological assessment. For MN DWIs, probation periods range from several months, to six years.

Chemical Dependency Evaluations

Chemical dependency evaluations are used to determine how dependent a person is on a chemical such as drugs or alcohol. These are very commonly required following a DWI charge. If a dependency is found, the DWI offender is usually required to seek treatment in the form of rehabilitation, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and other mandatory classes.

Civil Consequences

Civil consequences of a MN DWI conviction include: driver’s license revocation, vehicle forfeiture, license plate impoundment, and increased insurance rates.

Revocation of Drivers License

Driver’s license revocation is problematic for most people who rely on driving themselves to work every day, or driving their kids to school or daycare. Driver's license revocation periods are determined by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. For specific revocation periods related to each degree of DWI see the chart below.

Vehicle Seizure

In Minnesota, the state can seize a vehicle used in a MN DWI offense if they allege it was employed in connection with a second or first degree DWI. If they plan to seize your vehicle, the state must provide you notice of their intent to forfeit the vehicle. The forfeiture of the vehicle is presumed, and can happen without a judicial decree unless the MN drunk driver takes action to prevent it. In order to prevent a vehicle forfeiture, you must file a judicial demand for forfeiture within 30 days of receiving the state's notice.

License Plate Impoundment

A vehicle used in the course of various DWI offenses may also have its license plates impounded. Plate impoundment is an administrative action, which means it can be imposed quickly, and in most cases occurs directly following the arrest. Impoundment happens at the time of the arrest if law enforcement revokes an eligible person's driving privileges because the person failed or refuses to give a blood alcohol concentration test. A drunk driver's car is subject to license plate impoundment if any of the following factors exist:

  1. The offender has a prior DWI violation within the past 10 years
  2. The drunk driver has a BAC level in excess of .20
  3. The current MN DWI occurred while a minor 16 years of age or younger was in the vehicle
  4. The driver is arrested for the offense of Driving After Cancellation, regardless of whether the driver is intoxicated or not

Insurance Problems

Insurance rates are severely impacted by having a DWI offense on your record. When you receive a DWI charge, two notations enter your traffic record. These notations are visible to insurance companies. When your insurance provider sees a DWI charge on your record they will either drop your coverage or offer you "risk insurance," which is coverage with over inflated prices (usually around $2 - $10 thousand over the next 10 years).

Legal Help

A DWI charge is a serious offense. Anyone charged with any type of drunk driving conviction would be wise to talk to a criminal defense attorney about their case. It's important to find out your legal options early on, so you have the best chance at minimizing the consequences, reducing the charge or even getting the charges dropped.

If you've been charged with a DWI or DUI, learn more about Fighting a DUI/DWI Case.

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