Minnesota State Delegates

State Delegate


DUI Laws






Impaired Driving, DWI (Driving While Impaired, Driving While 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

To refuse to submit to a chemical test of the person’s blood, breath, or urine under Minnesota Statutes section 169A.52 (implied consent law).


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:


a qualified prior impaired driving incident within the preceding ten years;

an alcohol concentration of .20 or more; and

presence of a child under age 16 in the vehicle, if more than 36 months younger than the 

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. The person is given a seven-day temporary license to drive before the withdrawal becomes effective. The period of license withdrawal is as follows:

90 days 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);

six months if the driver is under age 21

180 days, if the driver has had a qualified prior impaired driving incident within ten years;

double the applicable period above, if the driver was arrested with an alcohol concentration of .20 or above or while having a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle;

one year, if the person refused to submit to the chemical test of blood, breath, or urine (reduced to 90 days upon DWI conviction for a first-time violation if the offender is not under the age of 21); and

cancelled and denied indefinitely as inimical to public safety, pending treatment and rehabilitation for a third or more impaired driving violation within a ten-year period.

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 30 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 .20 or more;

having a child under the age of 16 present in the vehicle; or

occurring while the person’s license has been cancelled for the person being inimical to public safety.

Plate impoundment applies to the vehicle used in 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.

The minimum period of plate impoundment is one year, during which time the violator may not lawfully drive any motor vehicle unless the vehicle displays specially coded plates and the person has been validly re-licensed to drive. The violator is also subject to certain restrictions when selling or acquiring a vehicle during the impoundment period.

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 B-Card (no alcohol) restrictions.

Minnesota law provides that the arresting office 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 30 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 under this law 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.

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 AC of .04 or more is deemed by statute to be “relevant evidence” of being under the influence. AC 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 chemical test of breath, blood, or urine for the purpose of determining the presence of alcohol or controlled or hazardous substances in the person’s body. 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 blood, breath, or urine. 

Before administering the evidentiary test, under the implied consent law, the officer must read the implied consent advisory statement to the driver, 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. 

If the evidentiary test is requested without the advisory being given, then the person may be criminally charged and prosecuted following test failure, but refusal and various administrative sanctions cannot be applied as the test has been taken outside of the implied consent law.

If the 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.


Under the implied consent law, the officer chooses whether the test will be of the person’s breath, blood, or urine. A person who refuses either a blood or a urine test must be offered an alternative test (breath, blood, or urine). 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. 


Provided that the driver submits to an evidentiary test, 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.


Submitted by Douglas V. Hazelton, Minnesota State Delegate for the National College for DUI Defense.

MN Judicial Branch - http://www.mncourts.gov/

MN Department of Public Safety - https://dps.mn.gov