It is one of the most common questions that clients who have been issued a DWI (driving while impaired) charge ask of their attorneys. They don’t quite understand how a police officer can get away with tacking on multiple DWI charges for the same incident. The reason is that there are usually two different ways for the state to attempt to prove a person guilty in a typical DWI case involving alcohol. Prosecutors, of course, want to obtain a conviction, so they will charge an individual with every possible DWI offense that they feel can be backed by the evidence.
In regards to a DWI related to alcohol for drivers of standard passenger cars, Minnesota law makes it illegal for anyone to drive, operate, or otherwise be in physical control of any motor vehicle if one of two conditions are met: (1) the individual is visibly under the influence of alcohol, or (2) the individual’s BAC (blood alcohol concentration) at the time they are operating, driving, or in physical control of the vehicle is at 0.08 or above.
In cases of multiple DWI charges for the same incident, it is most common for the first of those two conditions to be the factor that leads to the initial arrest. Then, when a person offers a test sample to police that shows his BAC is at 0.08 or higher, the second condition is considered by law to be met and a second charge is often made against the individual.
The main difference between the two conditions is that the second requires proof from the state that the person being charged actually had a BAC above the legal limit at the time of the arrest. The first condition does not require any particular number to be offered as proof. Instead, prosecutors base it on the arresting officer’s visual confirmation – sometimes backed by dash cam or security footage – that the defendant’s ability to operate a car was impaired because they had consumed too much alcohol.
That 0.08 number outlined in the statute is the BAC determined by the state legislature as being indicative of a person automatically violating Minnesota’s DWI laws. On the other hand, those who find themselves accused of being under the influence can still be convicted of DWI even if it has been proven that the driver’s blood alcohol level was under that legal limit.
The restrictions of driving while under the influence do not necessarily translate as meaning that it is illegal to consume alcoholic drinks and then get behind the wheel of a car. What is illegal is to go out drinking and then take control of a vehicle when an individual’s capacity to drive safely is clearly hindered. Conversely, if someone goes out during happy hour and afterwards is able to drive without any indication of impairment, then there is no violation of the statute. When the case is taken to the courtroom, several factors are critical for the defense of someone charged with a DWI and no BAC is noted – appearance, physical ability, driving conduct, and speech patterns, among others.
That said, each DWI case is different. There are several possible ways to challenge the charges in court, and every situation needs to be examined closely to figure out what factors will lend credence to a solid defense. By hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney, defendants will be able to fully understand their options and effectively be able to fight the charges.
If you live in the Minneapolis area and you or someone you know has been indicted for one or more DWIs, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our law offices.
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