In Minnesota, many drivers who are charged with driving while impaired – also called a DWI or DUI – only got behind the wheel in the first place because they thought they could safely drive. In that state of mind, it’s no wonder several people face DWI charges in our state with a particular aggravating factor: children were in the car.
It’s regrettable that many of the drivers behind the wheel in these cases are over the legal blood alcohol limit and now face DWI charges with serious consequences and more serious charges because children were in the vehicle.
Legal help is needed for anyone facing a Minnesota DWI, but especially those cases in which kids are involved. Here’s what you need to know about how Minnesota handles these cases and what legal consequences can be faced.
Who Does Minnesota Consider a Child?
One important component of a DWI charge with additional penalties for a child in the car is who the state considers being a child for the purpose of these laws. In our state, anyone under 16 is considered a child, so having a 17-year-old in the vehicle – even though they’re technically a minor – will not add additional penalties to a DWI conviction.
One important exception to this law concerns the age of the driver. You can only be exposed to the aggravator factor of a DWI with a child in the car if you are at least 36 months older than the child in question. You won’t face enhanced penalties under DWI laws if you are not.
The reasoning behind this is that adults are in a position of trust with minors in their cars, but anyone within three years of the child’s age is essentially their peer.
A Child in the Car Is an Aggravator
Having a child with you in the car when you get a DWI is not a separate charge in Minnesota. It’s simply an aggravating factor for a DWI. That means you will face the same DWI charges everyone else does, but the penalties you suffer if convicted will be greater than someone with a DWI that didn’t have a child in the car.
In each DWI case, there are two parts. The first part is the state establishing that you are guilty of the DWI you’ve been charged with. The second part is that prosecutors must make a case to appropriately penalize you for the infraction. In Minnesota, the aggravating factors present in your case will directly impact the penalties.
If no aggravating factors are present, then the basic penalties associated with a DWI are often enforced. However, each aggravating factor included increases the seriousness of the offense. Some of the aggravating factors in DWI cases include:
- A prior DWI within the last 10 years
- A blood alcohol level of 0.16 percent or higher, which is twice the legal limit
- A child under the age of 16 was present in the vehicle at the time of the offense
What Additional Penalties Can Be Faced?
If a child is in the car with you during your DWI stop, then that single aggravating factor can change what is normally a fourth-degree DWI charge to a third-degree DWI charge.
If convicted, that could mean up to one year of incarceration as well as $3,000 in fines and the loss of your license for two years.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is an AV-Preeminent rated criminal and DWI defense attorney based in Minneapolis who is known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge and has been named a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law by the Minnesota Bar Association. Mr. Keyers is Lead Counsel rated, and he has received recognition for his criminal law work from Avvo, Expertise, Super Lawyers, The National Trial Lawyers, and more.