Third Degree DWI
In Minnesota, Third Degree DWI is a gross misdemeanor offense that is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine. The minimum fine is supposed to be $900 plus a surcharge of approximately $80. However, in practice, judges often impose an executed fine significantly less than $900.
Third Degree DWI is defined as a DWI incident where one aggravating factor is present, i.e., while having a prior DWI incident within 10 years, an alcohol concentration of 0.20 or more, or a child under age 16 in the vehicle.
If a defendant has a prior DWI offense within 10 years, there is a mandatory minimum executed sentence of 30 days to serve. Of those 30 days, the court may allow the defendant to serve all but 48 hours on house arrest (electronic home monitoring). In some counties, house arrest is commonly imposed, and in other counties, it is not an an available option. Thus, avoiding significant time in jail depends on the particular circumstances of the case.
If Third Degree DWI is based on the aggravating factor of testing 0.20 or more or having a child under age 16 in the vehicle, there is no mandatory minimum sentence to serve. However, judge and prosecutors generally considering Third Degree DWI significantly more serious than a routine first-time offense that would otherwise be Fourth Degree DWI.
A person arrested for suspected Third Degree DWI may be released promptly from custody or may be held for court and subject to bail and/or conditions of release. Charges of Third Degree DWI do not necessarily trigger mandatory bail or conditions of release. However, if the charged are enhanced due to a test result of 0.20 or more or due to having a child under age 16 in the car, Minnesota Statutes do require the defendant to post maximum bail in the amount of $12,000 or to be released on continuous alcohol monitoring while the criminal case is pending.
If Third Degree DWI is enhanced by a prior DWI incident within 10 years, a defendant is not subject to mandatory bail or conditions of release. In such as case, the arresting officer has discretion to recommend the defendant's prompt release from custody or to recommend that the defendant be held until a judge sets bail or other conditions of release. Thus, defendants will be treated differently, depending on the police agency and jurisdiction of the alleged offense. The likelihood of being release promptly from custody will also depend on the facts of the case and defendant's criminal history.
If a defendant does not have a prior DWI conviction or DWI license revocation in his or her lifetime and the facts of the case are more routine, the defendant may have a good chance to reduce gross misdemeanor Third Degree DWI to the offense to misdemeanor Fourth Degree DWI. The ability to negotiate a reduction depends on several factors, including the driving conduct, one's criminal/driving record, the jurisdiction where it occurred, and the presence of potential defenses in the case.
If a defendant is convicted of Third Degree DWI, the court will place the defendant on probation typically for 2 to 4 years. The maximum length of probation is 6 years. The typical conditions of probation are to remain law abiding and successfully complete a chemical dependency assessment and follow its recommended educational or treatment program. In addition, Judges usually order a defendant to complete a two-hour victim impact panel offered by MADD. Depending on the facts of the case and where it occurred, a judge may order a defendant to abstain from the use of alcohol and drugs during probation and be subject to random testing.