• 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 the "second lowest" level of DWI offense in Minnesota, while Second Degree DWI is just a step below a Felony-level offense . . . and the stakes are much, much higher 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 anyone to actually be sentenced at the maximum, however. 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, it's not the maximum penalty you need to worry about -- it's the mandatory minimum penalties that 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. Having a prior DWI conviction, having an alcohol concentration of 0.16 or more (twice the legal limit), or having a child in the vehicle under the age of 16 -- these are the three 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.

    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). 

    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 also usually the requirement to post mandatory bail in the amount of $12,000 before you will even be released from custody. 

    Now, if you're hiring Ramsay Law Firm to represent you, the goal is to avoid any alcohol related conviction, and 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 still 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. 

    But 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've got us on your side, you'll fall asleep at night knowing that we've got every angle covered. Minnesota's DWI court process can be confusing to someone who has never even been arrested before, but we know DWI Defense better than anyone, and are going to be there to walk you through it. 

    All of the evidence, the facts, witness statements, the standard field sobriety testing, the preliminary breath test, and any other relevant pieces of information will be used to build a strong defense for you. Our number one goal will be to get the charges against you dismissed, or reduced to a lesser charge, either eliminating 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 both get the charges reduced and negotiate a better outcome.