DWI Laws in Minnesota

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Summary of Minnesota Impaired Driving Statutes




  • Impaired Driving, DWI (Driving While Impaired/Intoxicated)
  • DUI (Driving Under the Influence)


  • "drive, operate, or be in physical control."


  • "any motor vehicle."


  • anywhere within the state including any boundary water.


  • Driving, etc., while under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or (knowingly) a hazardous substance, or any combination of these
    • Driving, etc., while having an alcohol concentration (AC) or .08 (.08 means .08 percent alcohol concentration which is 8/10,000ths by volume) or more at the time, or as measured within two hours, of doing so;
    • Driving, etc., while having any amount of a schedule I or schedule II controlled substance, other than marijuana, in the body; or
    • If the vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle, having an alcohol concentration of .04 or more at the time, or within two hours of the time, of doing so; or
    • Refusal to submit to chemical testing pursuant to Minnesota Statutes section 169A.52 (implied consent law) or Minnesota Statutes section 171.177 (revocation pursuant to search warrant).

    While a first-time DWI involving a motorboat, recreational vehicle or snowmobile is subject to criminal penalties, withdrawal of an operator's boating/recreational vehicle/snowmobile privileges will only be imposed upon conviction – the operator will not subject to any of the administrative sanctions that occur with first-time DWI offenses involving other types of motor vehicles.


  • Impairment by alcohol, drugs or a combination thereof means impairment to a degree by which the driver lacks that clearness of intellect and control that he/she would otherwise have.


  • Criminal penalty enhancement is based on the number of aggravating factors present when the crime was committed:
    • None: 4th degree DWI, misdemeanor (maximum penalties: $1,000 fine, 90 days jail)
    • One: 3rd degree DWI, gross misdemeanor (maximum penalties: $3,000 fine, one year jail)
    • Two: 2nd degree DWI, gross misdemeanor (same as 3rd degree)
    • Three: 1st degree DWI, felony (maximum penalties: seven years incarceration in prison, and $14,000 fine

    Aggravating factors for 1st degree DWI are limited to prior qualified prior impaired driving incidents.

  • Aggravating Factors Include:
    • a qualified prior impaired driving incident within the preceding ten years;
    • an alcohol concentration of .16 or more; and
    • presence of a child under age 16 in the vehicle, if more than 36 months younger than the driver.
  • Qualified Prior Impaired Driving Incident Includes both:
    • prior impaired driving convictions; and
    • prior impaired driving-related losses of license (implied consent revocations) or operating privileges; or prior separate driving incidents within the preceding ten years involving any kind of motor vehicle, including passenger motor vehicle, school bus or Head Start bus, commercial motor vehicle, airplane, snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle, off-road recreational vehicle, or motorboat in operation.


  • Apart from any criminal penalties that may result from a DWI arrest, Minnesota law provides for three administrative sanctions that commence immediately upon arrest or charging:
    • Administrative License Revocation (ALR):
      • Whenever the implied consent law can be invoked during the arrest process, the person's driver's license can be withdrawn immediately following any test failure or test refusal.

        If officers secure a search warrant to obtain a blood or urine draw from a person suspected of violating the DWI laws, he/she must be advised that failure to submit to a blood or urine test is a crime. If the blood or urine test is obtained pursuant to warrant, the person's driver's license cannot be withdrawn until the officer certifies that the results indicated a test failure subsequent to laboratory testing. If the person refuses to comply with the execution of the search warrant, the license can be withdrawn immediately.

        In all cases, the person is given a seven-day temporary license to drive before the withdrawal becomes effective. Three extra days are added to the seven if the notice is mailed to the person. The period of license withdrawal is as follows:

      • 90 day revocation – for a person with no qualified prior impaired driving incident within the past ten years and no other aggravating factor was present in the current incident (reduced to 30 days upon DWI conviction for a first-time offender not under the age of 21);
        • double the applicable period above, if the driver was arrested with an alcohol concentration of .16 or above or while having a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle;
      • One year revocation – if the person was arrested with an alcohol concentration of .16 or more; refused to submit to the chemical test of breath (under the implied consent law), or blood or urine (refusal to comply with a search warrant); or tests below .16 with a prior impaired driving violation within a ten-year period [a test result of .16 or higher with a prior violation within ten years will trigger a two-year revocation period];
      • Cancellation – if a driver has a third impaired driving violation within a ten-year period or fourth in a lifetime the driver's license will be canceled indefinitely as "inimical to public safety," irrespective of the revocation periods above. To demonstrate rehabilitation, the driver must remain on an ignition interlock device (IID) for 3 years with no detected use of alcohol or controlled substances.
        • The driver may appeal the administrative license revocation, either administratively to the DPS and/or judicially through the court. Judicial review must be filed within 60 days of service of the notice of revocation. Administrative review may be sought at any time during the revocation period.
    • Administrative License Plate Impoundment:
      • A plate impoundment violation occurs concurrently with any impaired driving violation involving an aggravating factor, including those:
        • occurring within ten years of a qualified prior impaired driving violation by that person;
        • involving an alcohol concentration of .16 or more;
        • having a child under the age of 16 present in the vehicle; or
        • occurring while the person's drivers license has been cancelled as inimical to public safety.

        Plate impoundment applies to the vehicle used to trigger the plate impoundment violation as well as any vehicle owned, registered, or leased in the name of the violator, whether alone or jointly.

        A plate impoundment order is issued by the arresting officer at the time of the arrest and is effective immediately. The officer also seizes the plates and issues a temporary vehicle permit valid for seven days (or 45 days if the violator is not the owner). If the plates are not seized by the arresting officer, the court may issue its own plate impoundment order.

      • Specially coded license plates ("whiskey plates") – two letters followed by four number signifying to law enforcement that the regular plates have been impounded for an impaired driving violation – may be issued for the vehicle(s) provided that:
        • the violator has a properly licensed substitute driver;
        • a member of the violator's household is validly licensed;
        • the violator has been validly relicensed; or
        • the owner is not the violator and is validly licensed.

        It is a misdemeanor for a driver whose plates have been impounded to attempt to evade the plate impoundment law or for another person to enable such evasion.

  • Administrative Vehicle Forfeiture:
  • Minnesota DWI law provides for vehicle forfeiture for a designated license revocation or designated offense, typically the third DWI violation within a ten-year period, though with one or more enhancing factors, a person's second time or even first-time violation might also qualify for forfeiture.

    "Designated license revocation" means any license revocation or commercial license disqualification for an implied consent violation within ten years of two or more qualified prior impaired driving incidents.

    The term "designated offense" includes a DWI violation of the first or second degree or involving a person whose driver's license is cancelled as inimical to public safety or subject to "no use" of alcohol or controlled substances restrictions.

    Minnesota law provides that the arresting officer may seize the vehicle and requires that the prosecuting attorney serve notice to the owner(s) of the intent to forfeit. The forfeiture is conducted administratively, unless within 60 days the owner and/or the driver appeals the forfeiture action by filing for a judicial determination of the forfeiture.

  • A vehicle is subject to forfeiture only if:
    • it was used in the commission of a designated offense and the driver was convicted of that offense or failed to appear at trial on it; or
    • it was used in conduct resulting in a designated license revocation and the driver either fails to seek administrative or judicial review of the revocation in a timely manner or the revocation is sustained upon review.

    The prosecuting authority may remit or mitigate the forfeiture upon terms and conditions it deems reasonable if it finds that: (1) the forfeiture was incurred without willful negligence or without any intention on the part of the petitioner to violate the law; or (2) extenuating circumstances justify the remission or mitigation of the forfeiture.

    Other vehicles owned by the offender are not subject to forfeiture. As a protection for an owner who is not the offender, the law states that a motor vehicle is subject to forfeiture only if the driver knew or should have known of the unlawful or intended use of the vehicle.

    Following completion of forfeiture, the arresting agency may keep the vehicle for its official use. However, the security interest or lease of financial institution, if any, is protected, and the lienholder may elect to sell the vehicle at its own foreclosure sale or agree to a sale by the arresting agency. A proportionate share of the proceeds after deduction of certain expenses, goes to the financial institution. The law provides similar protection to any innocent co-owner as well.


  • Measurable alcohol concentration of .04 or more is deemed by statute to be "relevant evidence" of being under the influence. Alcohol concentration of .08 or more is per se intoxication level.


  • Minnesota's implied consent law assumes that a person who drives, operates, or is in physical control of a motor vehicle anywhere in the state or on the ice of any lake or boundary water has consented to a breath test for the purpose of determining alcohol concentration. The testing is administered at the direction of a law enforcement officer when there is probable cause that the driver has committed a DWI violation and the person:
    • has been arrested for a DWI violation;
    • has been involved in a motor vehicle crash;
    • has refused to take the DWI Screening test (Preliminary Breath Test or PBT); or
    • has taken the screening test and it shows AC of .08 or more.

    To build probable cause, the officer generally proceeds as follows:

    • Observes the impaired driving behavior and forms a reasonable suspicion of an impaired driving violation
    • Stops and questions the driver
    • Administers a battery of field sobriety tests (FSTs)
    • Administers a preliminary breath test (PBT)

    If, based on these screening tests, the officer has probable cause to believe that a DWI crime has occurred, the officer may arrest the person and demand an evidentiary test of the person's breath. Since 2016 (the latest version of Minnesota's implied consent law), officers seeking a blood or urine test may not bypass the warrant requirement and cannot legally demand a blood or urine test pursuant to the implied consent law.

    Under the implied consent law, the officer must read the a breath test advisory to the person, explaining that testing is mandatory, test refusal is a crime, and the person has the right to consult with an attorney before deciding whether to take the test. [There is no statutory pretest right to counsel in DWI cases where officers obtain a search warrant for a person's blood or urine.]

    If the breath test is requested without the advisory being given by the officer, then the person may be criminally charged and prosecuted based on the test results, but refusal and various administrative sanctions cannot be applied as the test was not requested by the officer pursuant the implied consent law.

    Although the 2016 version of Minnesota's implied consent law states that if a person is unconscious, or otherwise incapable of withdrawing consent, then consent is deemed not to have been withdrawn, and the chemical test may be administered and the administrative sanctions will apply, state and federal appellate case law prohibits blood and/or urine testing without a warrant.


  • Under the implied consent law, the officer is limited to requesting a breath test. Blood and urine tests can only be obtained in DWI cases where: (1) officers obtain a search warrant; and (2) once served, the person agrees to comply with the search warrant.
  • In cases where officers obtain a search warrant for blood or urine, a person who refuses to submit to a blood test must be offered a urine test as an alternative – and vice-versa – before the person can be deemed to have refused to submit to testing pursuant to a warrant. Blood and urine tests are analyzed by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), with results usually available within ten days. The BCA may certify chemical test results directly to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS).


  • Only a physician, medical technician, emergency medical technician-paramedic, registered nurse, medical technologist, medical laboratory technician, or laboratory assistant acting at the request of a peace officer may withdraw blood for the purpose of determining the presence of alcohol, controlled substances, or hazardous substances. There are no regulations regarding who may administer a urine test.


  • Provided that the driver submits to a breath test under the implied consent law, he/she has the right to have someone of their own choosing administer a chemical test or tests in addition to any administered at the direction of a peace officer; provided, that the additional test sample on behalf of the person is obtained at the place where the person is in custody, after the test administered at the direction of a peace officer and at no expense to the state. The failure or inability to obtain an additional test or tests by a person does not preclude the admission in evidence of the test taken at the direction of a peace officer unless the additional test was prevented or denied by the peace officer.
  • [There is no statutory right to additional testing in DWI cases where officers obtain a search warrant for a person's blood or urine.]PLEA BARGAINING STATUTE: None.

Minnesota Judicial Branch – http://www.mncourts.gov/

Minnesota Department of Public Safety – https://dps.mn.gov/

Minnesota State Legislature: https://www.leg.state.mn.us


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