Twin Cities Criminal Defense

Common Questions about DWI Defense in the Twin Cities

by Richard P. Ohlenberg, Attorney licensed in the State of Minnesota

As an experienced DWI lawyer, I have worked with hundreds of people throughout the Twin Cities (from my offices in St. Louis Park and Richfield) to help them understand their DWI charges and work towards the best possible outcome.  I find that may people who have been charged with DWI have the same concerns, so I’ve laid out come common questions and answers below.


What are some possible defenses to DWI charges?

There are several possible circumstances that can help your defense that Attorney Richard Ohlenberg will look at:


Was the stop of the vehicle justified?

The police and highway patrol do NOT have the right to pull you over for no reason or to ask where you are going. In court, the police will need to show the officer had reasonable suspicion of criminal activity justifying his or her stop of your vehicle.  


Was the driver's right to counsel vindicated?

Prior to asking you to take a breath, blood or urine test down at the station, did the police read the Implied Consent Advisory Form to you? If you said you wanted time to try to reach an attorney, did they allow you a reasonable opportunity to speak with an attorney.


Did the police officer have probable cause to arrest?

Everything the officer does, from the initial pull-over, to the officer’s questioning, to the field sobriety test, to the preliminary breath test all need to be supported by probable cause. The police need to be able to show in court that they had probable cause to believe that you, the driver, had committed a crime before they placed you under arrest for DWI or for any other alleged crime.  


Did the police need a warrant before they requested a chemical test down at the station based on the McNeely case?

Some (or all) of the above issues may be raised in defending you from your DWI charge.   Each DWI case is unique; every element of the arrest, from the pullover, to the initial conversation with law enforcement, to the probable cause justifying the testing, to the accuracy of the testing can and should be called into question when you have the evidence to show that the police did not follow proper procedures. 


Why do I need a lawyer if I know I'm guilty?

You might not be guilty…

First off, you do not know that you are guilty.  I have worked with several Minnesota drivers who “knew” or at least thought that they were guilty.  First of all, only a court of law can determine your innocence or guilt in a DWI case.  Secondly, even if you had been drinking and were close to or over the limit, the prosecution still carries the burden of proving that you were guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

But if you are….

There is a lot to a DWI case and sentencing beyond simply determining if someone is guilty or not.  There are a variety of possible fines, probation periods, suspensions and penalties that come with a guilty verdict or with a plea of guilty by the driver. With an experienced DWI attorney on your side, you may be able to qualify for alternative, delayed, or reduced sentencing.  An attorney may be able to help you secure a limited license so that you can still drive to work, or even delay the requirement that you enroll in the ignition interlock program. An attorney can advise you at each step to ensure that you end with the best possible result for you and your circumstance.


What are the costs for hiring a lawyer?

The cost to hire a lawyer to defend you through a DWI case can be as low as $2,500 on a first offense.  While any reasonable person is going to be want to save money if they can, make sure you understand what you are buying.  Some DWI attorneys draw clients in with the lowest initial quote, but offer little or nothing for that rate.  For example, an attorney may advertise a rate as low as $1,500, but that might ONLY cover you to plead guilty.  The point being, don’t just look for the lowest price, make sure you understand what you are buying. You definitely want to consider contesting both the criminal case AND the license revocation cases. Remember that the civil implied consent case is a separate case that you need to file paperwork to contest within 30 days from the date of issuance of the notice of revocation.

Repeat offenses or more complex cases are more expensive because they require more work as the potential consequences are greater.  The accused also has more at stake if being charged with a DWI when there is a prior DWI or alcohol related license revocation on your record as DWI’s are enhanceable offenses.  That means that each time you are charged with an additional DWI (ie, your second or third DWI charge) the consequences are more severe, and the jail time and suspensions are potentially longer and the fines are higher. In addition, there are administrative requirements to consider such as: the issuance of special “W” plates, ignition interlock, and potential vehicle forfeitures on a 3rd a offense or on a 2nd offense with a reading of .20 or more.


What are the costs for NOT hiring a lawyer?

I have talked with people who decided to save money by not hiring a lawyer.  While I appreciate that attorneys’ fees may seem expensive, the fact is, NOT hiring a lawyer can be FAR more expensive.  While hiring a lawyer does not protect you from a possible conviction, your chances of being found not guilty, or pleading to a lesser offense are much higher when you have an attorney on your side.  Some of the possible costs of being found guilty and not having anyone helping with the sentencing include: 

  • Fines associates with your offense, as well as license reinstatement fees and other administrative costs
  • Lessened opportunities for future employment. 
    When you have one or more DWI convictions on your record, any job involving driving is much harder, if not impossible, to obtain.  Even jobs that do not include any driving may exclude you from employment since someone with a DWI conviction may be perceived as a problem drinker or someone who generally makes reckless and bad decisions.
  • Increased Insurance Premiums
    A DWI conviction on your driving record can increase your monthly insurance premiums for as long as three to five years, depending on the insurance company.  
  • Lessened opportunities for living arrangements. 
    With the rental market as flooded as it currently is, landlords are only looking for ideal tenants.  If they perform a background check, even something so mundane (and seemingly unrelated to how good a tenant you may be) as a DWI can keep you from securing the rental property.
  • Ignition Interlock Device
    An Ignition Interlock Device may very well be part of a best case scenario outcome (because while a complication and an expense, it DOES allow you to drive).  However, an experienced DWI lawyer may be able to negotiate a shorter term that you are required to use the Ignition Interlock Device, which saves you the inconvenience and rental fees associated with the program.
Additional questions about a DWI arrest in the Twin Cities?
Call 952-447-1600 or contact us online for a free initial consultaiton.
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