Minnesota DWI Laws (Everything You Should Know)

Minnesota DWI Laws (Everything You Should Know)

Driving while intoxicated is more common than you think. 

It’s no wonder, then, that the State of Minnesota implements strict DWI laws. 

And today, we’re going to take a look at those laws. 

Plus, we’ll also look at the harsh penalties and the dangers of DWI, as well as answer some frequently asked questions. 

This is your all-in-one guide to Minnesota DWI laws. 

So without further ado, let’s begin!

DWI Laws in Minnesota

Minnesota DWI Laws

There are several laws relating to DWI in Minnesota. These are:

  • Illegal BAC levels
  • No Tolerance Law
  • Implied Consent/Search Warrant Law
  • Drugs and Driving
  • Open Container Law
  • Controlled Substances in Vehicle Law

Let’s look at each one in detail. 

Illegal BAC Levels 

Blood Alcohol Content(BAC) is the measure of how much alcohol is in your system. And as you can guess, the more alcohol you drink, the higher your BAC level percentage will be. 

Now, in Minnesota, it is considered illegal if you drive with a BAC level of:

  • 0.08% if you are above 21 years old
  • 0.04% if you hold a commercial driver’s license 

As you can see, that isn’t much at all. 

So even if you just drink a little, you can be charged with DWI and will face severe consequences.   

No Tolerance Law

In Minnesota, the legal age to drink alcohol is 21.

Now, under the No Tolerance Law, anyone below 21 years old that has been driving with any percentage of alcohol in their system will already be charged with DWI. 

So it’s a lot stricter for underage drinkers. 

Implied Consent/Search Warrant Law

But how can a law enforcement officer know your BAC levels?

Well, if someone is suspected of DWI, an officer can pull you over and have you take a breath, blood, or urine test. 

Now, if you hold a Minnesota driver’s license, that means you agree to the Implied Consent/Search Warrant Law. In other words, you agree to TAKE and SUBMIT to the test. 

Suppose the driver refuses to submit to the test. 

In that case, they will be held criminally liable, which can result in revocation of driving privileges for 1-year to 6 years, depending on the number of offenses on their record. 

If you want, you can go to a testing facility to get more accurate results on your BAC level. 

Drugs and Driving 

Driving while intoxicated doesn’t just mean alcohol. 

It can very much mean drugged driving as well. 

In Minnesota, it is illegal to drive while intoxicated with controlled substances, including prescription drugs, illegal drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and some household products.

These substances can impair the driver’s physical and mental ability to safely operate a motor vehicle on the road. 

While legal drugs may not cause big impairments alone, mixing them with alcohol can result in powerful intoxicating effects. 

So even if the drug is harmless or needed, it’s best to avoid driving when you take them. 

That said, prescription drugs are allowed if the doctor informs the driver that the prescribed drugs will not affect their driving ability. Make sure to check warning labels for legitimate medicines and the doctor’s orders regarding possible side effects.

Open Container Law

It is unlawful to have an open container of any alcoholic beverage inside a vehicle when driving on a public street or highway. 

It is also unlawful for passengers to drink or have an open container of any alcoholic beverage inside a motor vehicle.  

The Open Container Law is placed to prevent DWI. 

Controlled Substances in Vehicle Law

It is unlawful to possess, sell, or use substances in a motor vehicle, whether moving or parked. 

DWI Penalties in Minnesota 

As we said, if you are convicted of DWI, you will face harsh penalties. 

On top of that, penalties are more severe if: 

  • The driver is below 21 years old
  • The driver refuses to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test
  • There is a child younger than 16 years old in the motor vehicle when pulled over by law enforcement officers
  • The driver has previous DWI arrests
  • The alcohol concentration of the driver is 0.16 or more
  • The intoxicated driver has caused an accident, injury, or death

Let’s take a close look at the penalties for DWI in Minnesota. 

First Offense 

  • A minimum of 90-day license suspension. If the driver pleads guilty to DWI, he or she will be given 30 days for license suspension.
  • A minimum fine of $1,000
  • At least 90 days of jail time

A work permit will not be issued until after the 15-day suspension period and until reinstatement requirements have been completed. Also, a work permit will not be an option for drivers who have BAC levels of 0.16% or above.

Second Offense

  • License plates are impounded
  • Minimum of 1-year license suspension if the incident occurred within 10 years of the first offense
  • Required to enroll in the Ignition Interlock Device Program
  • A minimum fine of $3,000 
  • At least 1-year of jail time

Third Offense

  • License revocation for a minimum of 3 years if the third offense occurred within 10 years of the first and second offenses
  • Required to enroll in the Chemical Use Assessment 
  • License plates are impounded and the vehicle is forfeited
  • A minimum fine of $5,000
  • A minimum jail time of 1 year
  • Electronic monitoring

Penalties associated with the revocation of a driver’s license include a reinstatement fee of $680, application for a driver’s license, and enrollment in the Ignition Interlock Device Program. 

And, as we said earlier, these penalties are even more severe, depending on a few things (see above).

Effects of DWI

Why is DWI such a big issue?

The simple answer is that alcohol and/or drugs have an adverse effect on the central nervous system. In turn, this slows down body functions and impairs driving skills.

Let’s just take a quick look at some of the effects of alcohol/drugs on your body. 


If you drink a lot, then you will have blurred vision. Not to mention, your peripheral vision can also be reduced. Since that is the case, you can only see why you should never drive under this condition. 

Reaction Time

Drivers under the influence are unable to quickly respond to traffic signals, actions of pedestrians and other drivers, and events on the road. 

Loss of Attention

Focusing on other tasks required in driving may be very challenging. 


Drivers with high alcohol concentration levels may drive too fast, fail to wear a seatbelt, misjudge stopping distance, and be unable to drive defensively.


Impaired drivers find it difficult to notice or interpret signs and sounds around them. 

Coordination and Balance

Impaired drivers will lose their ability to coordinate speed and accuracy.


Most impaired drivers tend to oversteer which results in running off the road and weaving.

How to Avoid DWI 

Thankfully, there are many ways to avoid DWI. 

And no, that doesn’t mean that you should stop drinking altogether. 

If you know that you are going to drink, then don’t drive. If you’re going to drive, then don’t drink. 

As simple as that. 

Here are some other ways to avoid DWI:

  • If drinking at a friend’s house, it’s best to stay there for the night
  • Call a friend to pick you up
  • Call a taxi
  • Have a designated driver
  • Take away the keys from a friend that consumed alcohol

Remember, alcohol consumption affects one’s judgment, that’s why it’s crucial to make a decision while sober to avoid impaired driving later on.


Still got questions about DWI in Minnesota? Then let’s answer some of the most frequently asked ones. 

Is DWI a felony in the state of Minnesota?

A DWI is only considered a felony if the driver has:

  • Received more than three DWI convictions in the past 10 years
  • Been previously convicted of a felony DWI
  • Caused serious damage, injury, or death

How likely is jail time for a first DUI in MN?

If the driver’s BAC level is less than 0.016%, jail time can be anywhere between 1 day to 90 days, depending on the verdict. 

If the driver’s BAC is 0.16% or more, jail time extends from a couple of days to a year. Again, this depends on the court’s verdict. 

Can a DWI be expunged in Minnesota?

In 2015, the State of Minnesota allowed DWI offenders to have their charges expunged from their criminal record. However, there are multiple requirements, including completing the entire sentence and paying a fine.

But take note that your DWI conviction will still show up on your driving record even if it is expunged. 

What is the difference between a DUI and DWI in Minnesota?

In Minnesota, DWI is also referred to as “DUI”. The terms are interchangeable. 

While DWI stands for driving while intoxicated, DUI stands for driving under the influence. It’s one and the same. 

How can I get out of a DWI in Minnesota?

Many DWI offenders do a plea bargain as their best option for a fair resolution and to limit the consequences of the conviction. In many cases, the courts in Minnesota agree to waive any jail time in exchange for a guilty plea. 

What happens if you refuse a breathalyzer in MN?

Upon arrest, it is a crime to refuse a breathalyzer or any DWI test. Doing so results in a gross misdemeanor charge, a fine of $3,000, and/or up to one year of jail time.


And that’s everything you need to know about Minnesota DWI laws. 

As you can see, driving while intoxicated is VERY dangerous. 

You should avoid it at all times. 

If the dangers don’t scare you, then perhaps the penalties will. 


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