Monday, July 25, 2011
One Minnesota DWI = Two Charges?
An all too common question I get as a Minnesota DWI Attorney is: "I was arrested for Drunk Driving, but I'm charged with breaking two different laws; why?"
In the State of Minnesota, when someone is arrested and charged with a DWI - the accusation is that that individual failed to operate his or her vehicle in the same, careful manner that a sober person would - under the same circumstances.
In addition to that, bowing to pressure from the federal government - related to the dolling out of highway monies - states like Minnesota adopted per se Drunk Driving laws. These laws established a "legal limit" - as it regards the amount of alcohol you can legally have in your blood - before your driving becomes illegal. In Minnesota, the limit was once (.10) --- now it is (.08).
Therefore, if someone is found to have been operating and/or in physical control of a motor vehicle at a time in which the alcohol in his/her system was (.08) or higher - as established by a test of their blood, breath, or urine - they can be charged with a DWI. Even if the person doesn't exhibit any of the typical signs of Drunk Driving, and is able to drive just fine, they can be charged with a DWI based only on their body's chemistry.
Generally, the government will usually charge both crimes: the traditional DWI (see Minn Stat § 169A.20, subd. 1) where they accuse someone of being unable to drive with the same caution as a sober individual and the per se violation (see Minn Stat § 169A.20 subd. 5) for being above the legal limit.
In the end, a conviction on one charge is the same as a conviction on the other. Essentially, it's just two ways of charging the same crime and it just gives the government two bites at the same apple.
The good news (if you can call it that) is if someone is convicted of both Drunk Driving and being above the legal limit, they are only punished once.
If you have been arrested for Drunk Driving, your next best move is to contact an experienced Minnesota DWI Attorney for a free consultation to learn your rights.