• Gross Misdemeanor DWI


    In some situations, even a first-time DWI arrest will result in criminal charges of either a Third Degree or Second Degree DWI, both of which are classified as Gross Misdemeanor DWI. Third Degree DWI is the "second lowest" level of DWI offense in Minnesota. Second Degree DWI is just a step below a Felony-level offense, and the stakes are much, much greater than they are for a Fourth Degree, Misdemeanor DWI. The potential penalties are greater, the complexity of the case increases substantially, and the collateral consequences for a gross misdemeanor can be far scarier. 


    In Minnesota, a gross misdemeanor DWI (either a Third Degree or a Second Degree) comes with a "maximum penalty" of 365 days in jail, a fine of $3,000, and up to six years on probation. 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 year in jail, or being required to pay a $3,000 fine; however, when a DWI charge reaches the level of gross misdemeanor, the mandatory minimum penalties are most concerning.

    So what are the differences between a Third Degree DWI and a Second Degree DWI? We'll give you a rough breakdown (to get a better grasp on the details, you'll want to give us a call and get some actual legal advice that is more specific to your case). 

    Third Degree DWI: This offense is the result of having one "DWI aggravating factor" present in your case, such as: a prior DWI conviction, an alcohol concentration of 0.16 or more (twice the legal limit), or having a child in the vehicle under the age of 16. The only other aggravating factor to consider, is if you refuse to submit to testing at the station. A refusal will also act as an aggravating factor (basically, refusing to submit to testing is treated as though you're alcohol concentration was at or above a 0.16). These are the four aggravating factors that will elevate a DWI to a third degree. Keep in mind, you just need one of these. Two factors (like having a prior conviction for DWI and being above a 0.16) will skip right past Third Degree DWI and result in charges for Second Degree DWI instead.

    So, one aggravating factor equals a Third Degree DWI in Minnesota. What does that mean in terms of mandatory minimum sentences? It usually means a minimum sentence of 30 days in jail, $900 fine, and three to six years of probation. We say "usually" because there are some exceptions, depending on which aggravating factor caused the offense to be charged as a Third Degree. Note that along with these punishments, which happen after you are convicted, there is most often the requirement to post Mandatory Bail in the amount of $12,000 before being released from custody. 

    Now, if you're hiring Ramsay Law Firm to represent you, the goal is to avoid any alcohol related conviction, thereby also avoiding some or all of the consequences listed above. The mandatory penalties only apply if you are convicted of a Third Degree DWI (and sometimes, not even then!)

    Second Degree DWI: This offense is the result of having two of the aggravating factors described above. Second Degree DWI is a gross misdemeanor, just like a Third Degree, but the mandatory minimums can be much worse.

    Second Degree DWI usually means a minimum sentence of 90 days in jail, the same $900 mandatory minimum fine, and six years of probation. Again, there are exceptions to the mandatory minimums, depending on which aggravating factor caused the offense to be charged as a Second Degree, but that's a level of complication that is best described by an attorney, and not by a website. 

    Just know that Second Degree DWI carries an extra penalty: potential forfeiture of your vehicle. DWI Vehicle Forfeiture is the biggest difference between a Third Degree DWI and a Second Degree DWI. 


    DWI Defense is how we built our reputation, and when you have us on your side, know that we have every angle covered. Minnesota's DWI court process can be confusing, but we know DWI Defense better than anyone, and are going to be there to walk you through it. 

    Our number one goal is to get the charges against you dismissed, or at least dramatically reducing the consequences. 


    That's our goal -- either reducing or outright avoiding the consequences that come from having a DWI conviction on your record. By both avoiding the criminal consequences of a DWI conviction and avoiding the effects a DWI will have on your driving record, we hope to put your life in the same place it was in the day before you were arrested. While the stakes are higher when charged with a gross misdemeanor DWI, higher-level charges also give us more opportunities to get the charges reduced and negotiate a better outcome.