What Are “Aggravating Factors” in a Minnesota DWI?


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When you are arrested for a DWI, you think that things couldn’t possibly get worse than a conviction. However, while standard DWI punishments are harsh, believe it or not, they get worse. When it comes to DWI charges, there are regular DWI charges and there are aggravated DWI charges. If you are convicted of a DWI with aggravating circumstances, it means the punishments will be even more severe.

What are the Aggravating Factors of a DWI?

Unfortunately for many, sometimes aggravating factors can be stumbled upon, and make what should be a first-time DWI arrest into something much more serious. Aggravating factors for a DWI charge in Minnesota include:

  • Having a Blood-Alcohol Content (BAC) higher than .20
  • Being involved in an accident that caused injury or property damage
  • Refusing to take a breath, blood, or urine test to confirm intoxication by police
  • Having a child in the car under the age of 16
  • Having a previous DWI offense in the past 10 years

If you have one or more of these aggravating factors present at the time of your DWI arrest, you are looking at additional punishments.

How Aggravating Factors Affect DWI Convictions

If you were arrested for your standard DWI, you would be charged with a misdemeanor fourth degree DWI. However, for every aggravating factor, that DWI charge degree will go up. While a second degree DWI may only still be a gross misdemeanor, judges will take it very seriously.  You may find that what could have been probation and counseling is now a jail sentence.

Fortunately, in order to get a first degree DWI, you would need to have a previous DWI conviction or alcohol-related license revocation on your 10-year record. This is the only aggravating factor that can raise a DWI charge to the first degree, which is a felony-level charge. If you already have a DWI conviction on your record, the fact that you are looking at having a felony on your record is not great news.

Fighting Aggravating Factors

Unfortunately, there often isn’t much one can due to mitigate the aggravating factors in a DWI case. The best course of action is often to unravel the DWI arrest as a whole. While you still may face reckless driving charges if there was property damage or injury involved, if the DWI charge is dropped, that means that many aggravating factors don’t matter.

For example, if it can be determined that the officer didn’t have probable cause to pull you over, it doesn’t matter if you refused to take a blood, breath, or urine test down at the station because the actual arrest was invalid. When DWI charges are dropped, in most cases the aggravating factors are dropped with it.

If any aggravating factors are present in your DWI case, your first step should always be to contact a lawyer as soon as possible. In fact, talking to your lawyer may be able to prevent aggravating factors, like refusing BAC tests. As you have the right to refuse inaccurate field sobriety tests, including hand-held breathalyzers, this often causes some to believe they can refuse the more official tests that happen after arrest. Unfortunately, that is not true and has been the cause of many an aggravated DWI case.

Regardless, the faster you contact your legal representation, the faster they can get to work examining and potentially unraveling your DWI arrest. If you have been arrested for a DWI in the Twin Cities metro area, contact us today. The Speas Law Firm is dedicated to representing Minnesota citizens in trouble and helping them escape the potential unfair punishments that often come with a regrettable mistake.

Disclaimer: The content of this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please contact Jennifer Speas to discuss the specifics of your case. Please read our disclaimer.