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Understanding the DWI Court Process MN DUI, DWI

Understanding the DWI Court Process MN

1 year ago by Brian
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Minnesota courts do not take DWI charges lightly. You might feel like everyone is against you as you wade through and that’s why it’s important to understand the legal DWI court process.

That’s why you should never forfeit your right to legal representation. A Woodbury-St.Paul, MN DWI Lawyer can help reduce your charges or, in some cases, may find a way to have your DWI dismissed.

A DWI Arrest

If you’re pulled over for DWI, you’ll be taken to a police station close by or to a county jail or detention facility. Once you arrive at the site, you may have to take additional chemical testing.


If your BAC is twice the legal limit (0.16 or higher), you’ll be held in custody until the judge establishes the conditions for your release. 


Otherwise, if the BAC is under 0.16 and the arresting officer does not think further detention is necessary, you may be released immediately. 


Also, if you’re arrested for a fourth-degree misdemeanor, you can go home without waiting for bail to be set.


A DWI arrest subjects you to criminal and/or administrative penalties. For example, administrative penalties may include the loss of your driver’s license. If you’re arrested for a misdemeanor DWI, you’ll usually have your driver’s license revoked for 90 days.


If you refuse to take the chemical test or you do not pass, your arresting officer will take measures to suspend your driver’s license right away.


The following steps will give you an idea of what to expect during the DWI court process. While they are not all-inclusive, they will give you an idea of how the process basically works.


The Initial Appearance in Court

If you’re held in custody, the prosecutor must take the case to court for review within 36 hours (not counting holidays and weekends). This prepares you for the step called the initial appearance.


Setting the Conditions for a Release

At this point, the judge establishes the conditions for your release from jail. He or she will explain the charges that you face. 


Frequently, you’ll need to promise to appear in court, or the judge will set bail. If bail is set to be posted and you cannot afford to pay it, you’ll have to stay in jail until you can be arraigned.


Typically, you may have to wait between 30 and 60 days after you’re arrested to get arraigned if you’re held in custody and cannot post bail.


Entering a Plea

During the hearing, the court will ask that you enter a guilty or not guilty plea. If you enter a guilty plea, your sentence will be issued that day. Otherwise, a pretrial conference date will be set for a not-guilty plea.


A Rule 5 Hearing

If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, your first appearance before the judge is called an arraignment. If you’ve been charged with a gross misdemeanor or felony, the first appearance is called a Rule 5 hearing. It is usually combined with a Rule 8 hearing


The Pre-trial Conference 

A pretrial conference is the second appearance you must make before a judge. During the hearing, the judge listens to case updates. 


Making a Plea Agreement

Your DWI defense attorney may, at this time, make a plea agreement. This may result in a reduced penalty in exchange for pleading guilty.


Preparing for Trial 

If you don’t want to enter a plea bargain, your case will be heard at trial. 


Filing a Pretrial Motion

Your lawyer may file a pretrial motion. For example, he or she may file a motion to dismiss or a motion to suppress (which attempts to prevent the prosecution from using certain information as evidence).


Showing the Burden of Proof

In most cases, a DWI charge in Minnesota does not go to trial. You may choose to have a jury hear your case or have the court decide on a verdict. The prosecution must have the burden of proof or be ready to show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you were clearly in violation of the state’s DWI law. If this happens, it can drastically change your life.



When you’re found to be guilty or at a hearing, you’ll next move on to sentencing. Sentencing may include imposed fines, jail time, and/or probation. 


DWI Violations in Minnesota

Violations in a DWI case may include reckless driving (weaving or sudden lane changes, including speeding), a test refusal, and exceeding the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08%.

The judge will usually impose stiffer penalties for aggravating circumstances.


Aggravating Circumstances

Aggravating circumstances may include testing at a BAC of at least 0.16% or having a minor, under 16 years of age, in the auto. This applies if the driver is at least three years older than the minor. 


Refusing to Take a Test

Refusing to submit to DWI testing can also increase your fines or jail time. However, if you’re asked to take a preliminary breath test (PBT) when you’re stopped or ordered to take a sobriety field test, neither one of these measures can be used as evidence.

The test you take at the police station is what is used in the courtroom.


DWI Convictions

DWI might be first-degree felonies, second-degree DWI, third-degree DWI, and fourth-degree misdemeanors.

These degrees of DWI may be categorized as a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or felony.


Fourth-Degree DWI

If you’re convicted of a fourth-degree DWI, you may have to spend 90 days in jail and pay a $1,000 fine.


Second- and Third-Degree DWI

A second or third-degree DWI charge may include one year in prison and a $3,000 fine. Sentencing may include an abstention order. This entails getting random drug tests during probation and refraining from the consumption of alcohol.


First-Degree DWI

If you’ve been charged with three prior DWIs within the past ten years, you can be charged with first-degree DWI. For this offense, you may be incarcerated up to seven years and/or pay a fine of $14,000.


Appealing a DWI Case

You may appeal your case, but this part of the court process can be complicated and lengthy. Therefore, using the services of a professional DWI crime attorney can be invaluable.


Contact a Woodbury DWI/DUI  Lawyer Today

If you have been charged with DWI, contact a Woodbury, MN DWI criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Doing so will give you the support you need to experience a better outcome. Begin the process now. Contact JS Defense to schedule an appointment at (651) 362-9427 today.


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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney Justin M. Schiks who has more than 20 years of legal experience as a personal injury attorney.

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