• Felony DWI


    The most severe level of DWI in Minnesota is felony-level DWI. Felony DWI comes in a variety of different "flavors." If someone is charged with a felony DWI, it's likely because they:

    1. Had three prior DWI convictions (or license revocations) in the past ten years;

    2. Had a prior felony DWI at any point in their life, even more than ten years ago

    3. Were involved in a DWI where another individual was injured or killed.

    Felony DWI's are prosecuted by the County Attorney, unlike Misdemeanor and Gross Misdemeanor DWIs, which are usually prosecuted by local, city prosecutors. 


    In Minnesota, a felony DWI (often, but not always, described as a First Degree DWI) comes with a "maximum penalty" of 7 years in prison, a fine of $14,000, or both. Just like most crimes in Minnesota, it's honestly very rare for someone to actually be sentenced at the maximum. The overwhelming majority of these types of DWI offenses will not result in someone spending a full 7 years in prison, or being required to pay a $14,000 fine; however, when a DWI charge reaches the level of felony, spending time in prison becomes a real concern. There are also a lot of mandatory minimum penalties that apply to felony convictions


    There are two other looming possibilities when someone is facing a felony DWI, possibilities that don't exist for other types of DWI case.

    The first is what's known as "conditional release." This is a special sort of "extra prison" tacked on to the end of a felony sentence. What it means is that anyone who goes to prison for felony-DWI and is released will have up to five additional years of prison hanging over their head after they get out. 

    The other possibility is facing a special form of long-term monitoring. The period of probation for a felony DWI can be up to seven years long, and can include not only a significant amount of jail time but additional punishments, like annual alcohol monitoring, random testing, and intensive alcohol programming.  


    DWI Defense is how we built our reputation, and that is especially true when it comes to the most serious types of DWI crimes. Felony-level DWI's are far more complicated than non-felony DWIs -- the stakes are much higher, the issues are more complex, and there can be mandatory prison sentences in play.  

    Defending a felony DWI involves a careful blend of negotiation and legal case strategies, fighting for the best possible outcome while minimizing the risks of a lengthy prison stay. Throughout, we're exploring every possible avenue for creatively reducing the consequences and, where it applies, making sure our clients are getting the help they need to never find themselves in court again.

    On this last point, it is worth mentioning the growing opportunity to enroll in specialty courts like DWI-Court. Hennepin County's DWI Court is one example of the type of specialty court that is growing in acceptance around the state of Minnesota. While enrolling in DWI Court is a very intensive process, the trade-off for those who succeed is spending substantially less time in jail and getting an incredible amount of 1-on-1 supervision designed to ensure continuing sobriety. 

    In the end, our goals depends on our client's goals -- either reducing or outright avoiding the consequences that come from having a felony DWI conviction on your record. Felony DWIs provide a lot more opportunities to present unique defenses, and also give us a chance to craft very creative, client-specific sentencing agreements that are vastly preferable to going to prison or spending 365 days in jail. 

Charles Ramsay
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