Thursday, November 15, 2012

Minnesota DWI FAQs (and Answers!)

As a Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney -- I get lots and lots of questions about DWIs.  Here are some of the most common - and some no non-sense answers.

1. What Is The Difference Between a DWI and a DUI?

In Minnesota, there really is not a difference. The term DWI is technically more accurate as to describe the charge as Minnesota Statute 169A.20 describes the offense as Driving While Impaired, which encompasses driving under the influence (DUI) of various substances, including alcohol, drugs or other intoxicating agents. The statute also covers the offense of driving with unacceptable amounts of these various substances in your bloodstream.

2. What's a Pretrial / Omnibus Hearing?

Before a trial, your Minnesota DWI  lawyer will file motions. These motions address various constitutional issues. They may include:
  • ·                    The reason your car was stopped;
  • ·                    Whether the officer had a reasonable basis to pull you over;
  • ·                    Your legal right to counsel;
  • ·                    Whether the officer performed the required Miranda rights;
  • ·                    Whether there was probable cause for your arrest; and/or
  • ·                    Other specific issues related to your case.
These motions take place at court hearings referred to as Pretrial or Omnibus hearings. Police officers, jail staff and / or defendants sometimes offer the Judge their testimonies during these hearings. Depending on your specific case and situation, you yourself may even be required to testify. If the Judge grants the motions from your DWI lawyer the case may be dismissed. If the Judge rules against the motions the case will be scheduled for trial. According to Minnesota law, the Judge present at your hearing must issue a ruling within 90 days of this hearing, determining how your DWI or DUI case will proceed.

3. What Will Happen at a Trial?

You have the right to request a trial by jury when you are charged with a DWI. You can expect the trial to last 1-2 days, and the jury to be to 6 individuals residing in the county in which you have been charged. If however you already have 3 DUI or DWI convictions within the last 10 years, you will go through what is called a felony jury trial. In Minnesota, a felony trial means you have the right to be judged by a jury of 12 individuals from your own county.

The first step of any trial is the selection of the individuals who will make up the jury. Jury selection takes several hours, as your attorney will do his or her best to find jury members that will be impartial and that will be able to view the information and testimony in the case in a fair and neutral way.  Once the jury is selected, the Prosecutor in your case will make his or her opening statement, explaining to the jury their understanding of your case and the reason why you should be guilty of driving while impaired or driving under the influence. It will then be your attorneys turn to make his opening statement. He will take advantage of this time to show the jury what problems and flaws he sees in the Prosecutors case. This might include showing that the Intoxilyzer test was inaccurate, that the blood draw was not performed properly or any other process that might not be valid depending on the specifics of your case.

Once both attorneys have made their opening statements, witnesses will be called to testify. These witnesses might include the police officer who arrested you, the individual who performed the Intoxilyzer test and any other person the Prosecutor believes will convict you of a DWI or DUI. Your lawyer's approach during this time will be to get involved in the questioning process and point out inconsistency in each of the witness testimony.

Once the Prosecutor is finished presenting his or her case, it will be your turn to call witnesses to the bar. These witnesses will be called to help show that you are not guilty of committing a DWI and might include individuals such as eyewitnesses, passengers who were with you at the time of the arrest, or a blood alcohol expert who can explain why the test was not performed properly and should therefore be disregarded. At the end of testimonies, both your lawyer and the Prosecutor will make their closing statements and the members of the jury will be asked to proceed to the Jury Room to deliberate on your case. This means they will review the evidence and testimonies of all the witnesses, discuss the Prosecutor and your lawyers arguments and ultimately come to an unanimous decision on whether or not you are guilty of the crime for which you were charged.

As you can see from these proceedings, a jury trial is not a simple process. This is an outline of how processes go for the most part, but as every trial is different, many twists and turns can influence whether or not you will walk away free and without conviction. This is why it is extremely important that you contact a lawyer specializing in DUI and DWI cases as soon as possible. Not just any generalist attorney can successfully navigate the complex and intricate laws that are specific to DUI and DWI cases. Thankfully for you, in Minnesota, you can count on the expert advice and representation that the Rolloff Law Office has to offer.

4. What if I Don't Want a Trial (Negotiations) ?

Many cases do not go to trial, as they are settled by entering into plea bargains with the prosecutor or dismissed at the pretrial or omnibus hearing.  If the case is not dismissed at the pretrial often times it will be beneficial to consider negotiations.  During negotiations, your attorney will speak with the Prosecutor and point out the problems, flaws and gaps he or she sees in the Prosecutors case. In order for negotiations to turn in your favor, and hopefully avoid you having to go to trial, your attorney must be extremely skilled and experienced in handling DWI and DUI cases.

The best outcomes in negotiations literally come down to how well your attorney can study and take apart the Prosecutors case to prove to them that they will not get a conviction by going through trial, and to convince them that it is better for everyone involved to settle the case outside of the courtroom through the negotiation process. 

If you have been charged with a DWI call the Rolloff Law Office without delay. We will offer you a FREE consultation and will be happy to put our years of experience in (both defending and prosecuting) DWI cases at your service to help you put this experience behind you and move on with your life.  Call today: (612) 234-1165.

1 comment:

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