Law enforcement officers are highly-focused on drunk drivers, especially during certain times of the year. In fact, Minnesota has one of the highest DWI arrest rates in the nation. Once these cases go to court, the consequences are potentially severe, even for first-time offenders. The Gopher State also has rather strict DWI laws.
But there is a big difference between an arrest and a criminal conviction. Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Generally, the harder a Brainerd, MN DWI lawyer works, the more frequently this presumption of innocence holds up in court.
Consequences of a DWI in Crow Wing County
Extended court supervision and drivers’ license suspension are usually the two most significant direct consequences of a DWI conviction.
Almost all first-time offenders receive probation. Ordinary probation normally lasts between twelve and twenty-four months. For aggravated DWI, the probationary period could be up to six years.
Basic conditions, such as reporting regularly to a probation officer and submitting to random drug tests, are just the beginning. DWI probation also normally means things like large community service requirements and mandatory alcohol counselling. DWI is theoretically an offense against community safety, because the number of alcohol-related vehicle collisions is so high. Alcohol counseling usually includes classes and evaluations as well as mandatory follow-up, such as a period of alcohol abstinence.
In a criminal case, everything is usually negotiable. So, a Brainerd, MN DWI lawyer is often able to modify these conditions, at least to some extent.
Drivers’ license suspension typically lasts one or two years, depending on the facts of the case. License suspension is crippling in places like Brainerd.
Once again, a Brainerd, MN DWI lawyer can address this consequence. Generally, a conditional drivers’ license is available. These conditions could include time restrictions, such as only driving for essential household purposes, or an Ignition Interlock Device.
Indirect DWI consequences include higher auto insurance rates. These higher rates usually make up most of the estimated $20,000 cost of a first-time offense in Minnesota. Brainerd, MN DWI lawyers obviously cannot change car insurance rates. But an attorney can limit the period of probation. That usually affects the amount of time drivers must have SR-22 high-risk insurance. Additionally, an attorney can often refer defendants to insurance professionals who work with people that have DWIs on their records.
How Brainerd, MN DWI Lawyers Undermine Field Sobriety Tests
Another way to reduce DWI consequences is to aggressively attack the state’s evidence. In both test and non-test cases, this evidence usually includes the field sobriety tests, which are:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: The HGN test detects nystagmus, or involuntary pupil movements at certain viewing angles. The test is generally accurate if administered under controlled conditions. But roadside HDGN tests do not take place under controlled conditions.
- One-Leg Stand: This test is a divided attention test which measures physical dexterity and mental acuity. It is almost impossible for anyone with any mobility impairment to stand on one leg for any length of time. Additionally, most officers administer this test last, when defendants are physically and mentally fatigued.
- Heel to To Walk: Conditions also affect this test, which is also known as the WAT (Walk And Turn). It’s very hard to walk a straight line heel to toe unless the subject is wearing athletic shoes. It’s also much harder to walk an invisible line than an actual line, such as a parking space stripe.
- Portable Breathalyzer: In most states, officers only administer Breathalyzer tests at the station house. But in Minnesota, the breath test also occurs at the stop. In addition to the flaws mentioned below, a significant disparity between the roadside and station house Breathalyzer test usually indicates that one of them was wrong.
In test cases, the field sobriety tests serve as probable cause for the arrest. In non-test cases, prosecutors must normally use FST results to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s a tall order.
Challenging Chemical Tests in Court
Like all other machines, Breathalyzers are not 100 percent accurate. In fact, these gadgets have some inherent flaws. Unabsorbed alcohol is a good example. Typically, alcohol travels from the stomach to the liver to the blood. Since the digestive process is longer, the Breathalyzer’s BAC estimate might be artificially high, especially if the defendant has had anything to drink in the previous hour or so.
Other times, the Breathalyzer’s supposed accuracy works against it. Police Breathalyzer techs often brag about how many particles these devices count to determine a person’s BAC level. These particles usually include anything in the ethyl family. Such particles make up about 70 percent of the particles in a person’s blood, and not all of these particles are ethanol (alcohol).
Blood tests are usually more accurate than breath tests. However, blood test results are not unassailable. Brainerd, MN DWI lawyers can use issues like gaps in the chain of custody to create reasonable doubt as to the results.
Reach Out to Aggressive Attorneys
A good Brained, MN DWI lawyer can reduce the consequences of a criminal conviction. It all begins with a free consultation at Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Crow Wing County and nearby jurisdictions.