Skip to main content

I was charged with a 3rd degree DWI - (Blew .20) What are penalties for a 1st time offender realistically? (Hennepin County)

Eden Prairie, MN |

Car was impounded and plates were removed before I picked it up the next day. I did not have to go to jail that night. Blew .20. Trying to figure out what I will have to do when court comes. I don't have a ton of money and have talked to a few lawyers. Everyone says I just need a public defender. I am trying to possibly get it reduced to a misdemeanor vs. gross. Any private lawyers ever accept payment plans? Also, should I get a chemical assessment now or wait for it to be ordered? Thank you for your time!

+ Read More

Attorney answers 7


There are many private attorneys that accept payment plans and most will take payment by credit card as well. If you aren't going to get a private attorney, the chances of getting the charge reduced to a misdemeanor decrease, but it's still possible. Keep in mind that reduction of the charge will not change the license revocation or plate impoundment penalties. A private attorney would need to file a civil petition to challenge these penalties separately from the criminal charges. That petition needs to be filed within 30 days of the arrest.

Hennepin County has its own "pet program" when it comes to an alcohol assessments, but getting one ahead of time could help convince the prosecutor that you deserve a reduction of the charge.



Thank you for your response. I am realistically trying to avoid jail time and get it reduced to a misdemeanor if possible. I know I made a mistake and I will have to pay the consequences. It is just nerve wrecking not knowing what they will be. I just have to wait for the information in the mail. I was not given a ticket that night, but based on my BAC I assume that is what I will be charged with. I basically admitted to everything to the officer so I don't think I will have a case for the civil side of it.


Before you decide to go with a public defender contact a few attorneys here on AVVO to discuss your options, including payments. Note public defenders cannot help you with the civil issues of license revocation, and plate impoundment. It's worth a few calls. Good luck.

This is not intended as legal advice. No attorney / client relationship exists because of this response.


Hello. Upon the advice of your attorney, you may want to obtain a chemical dependency assessment at this time: It can be a wise decision. Some attorneys will accept payment plan and some will provide reduced fee for financial hardship. It is important you secure legal counsel as soon as possible.

TWIN CITIES to ST CLOUD. Do seek legal counsel for your personal legal issues and needs. This post is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. This post is to be considered general information which may or may not apply to your personal situation.


Many of us will offer payment plans and very reasonable rates on a case like this. It's difficult to convince a prosecutor or judge to reduce the level of the charge without an attorney, although it's possible. A public defender is another good option. Consider though that the public defenders can't challenge the revocation of your license or the impoundment of your registration plates. A typical outcome in Hennepin County in a case like this might be a gross misdemeanor conviction, two years of probation, alcohol treatment or programming, fines, and a number of days on the work crew. An experienced DWI defense attorney will work to negotiate a better result for you.

Do not rely on this information. This post does not create an attorney client relationship. Please contact me directly to receive formal legal advice regarding your situation.


There are many issues to address in this question. First, yes, some private attorneys do accept payment plans. You will find that for every ten attorneys you speak with, there may be 10 different fees/payment options. However, most attorneys also accept credit card payments, if that works in your budget.

As for going with a public defender. You will likely get good representation, as most public defenders are also good attorneys. The one set back is that a public defender can only help you with the criminal portion of your case. DWIs result in two separate court procedures: 1) the criminal case and 2) the administrative case, which deals with DL suspension, vehicle forfeiture, etc... If you choose to challenge anything in the administrative case, you would have to either retain a private attorney or handle it on your own. Also, there is only a 30 day window to challenge these issues.

Should you get the chemical assessment ahead of time? Yes, this would be a smart move, and it also shows the prosecutor and judge that you are taking this case seriously.

Realistic penalties for a first time offender are probation, the chemical assessment/any recommended treatment, and a class on DWIs. These aren't a guarantee, as every case is different.

Reducing the charge from a Gross Misdemeanor to a Misdemeanor. This is possible, but will depend on several different variables. For example, the facts of your case, the prosecutor's feelings of the case, etc... Your attorney will be able to negotiate with the prosecutor in hopes of obtaining your goal. Completing the assessment early may go a long way in accomplishing this goal.

I would recommend that you do not accept any plea without an attorney. There may be one of many possible defenses in your case, but this will only be known with a thorough investigation of all the facts and evidence. The laws concerning DWIs is changing rapidly, so it would be in your best interest to have an attorney counsel you on what is the best route to take with your case.

I hope you find this information helpful, and I wish you the best of luck.



Thank you for your detailed response. I have met with a few lawyers and yes, their rates are all over the place. I have not requeted a payment plan from anyone as of yet. I suppose I will try that route. I didnt want to discuss money up front as I wanted tofind the best attorney for me.

Andrew M. Leone

Andrew M. Leone


That's smart thinking, because you want to make sure you are comfortable with your attorney as well. If you have any questions regarding your case, feel free to let me know. Andrew Leone 612-356-2529


Penalties would depend on many things including the particular facts of your case. You would be wise to seek a chemical assessment in most cases, but without a review, it is difficult to determine what defenses may exists and the proper course of action.

WIth a BAC of .20 or more, at a minimum, your case is a third degree offense. A third degree offense is a gross misdemeanor which carries with it maximum possible penalties of ONE year in jail and a $3,000 fine. If convicted, there are also mandatory minimum sentences. That means the least amount of jail time you would serve is likely to be 30 days. Obviously, penalties may be significantly greater. As a result, it is important to present an aggressive defense. It is also important to know and understand the Judge's and their proclivities in your county.

License Revocation or Cancellation - The Implied Consent

A DWI is not only a criminal case, it has a civil element as well. There is a license revocation related to a DWI that is a case entirely separate from the criminal matter. Nothing in the criminal matter will change the license revocation which occurs automatically unless you seek a judicial review of that revocation. This MUST occur within 30 days after you were ticketed. Any failure to seek a judicial review results in the license revocation and a record that indicates a new alcohol related offense that can be used to make any subsequent DWI a greater crime. In that judicial review, the challenges are the same as those made in the criminal case.

Plate Impoundments, Forfeitures and B cards

There are also additional consequences to a conviction including skyrocketing insurance rates, plate impoundments and sometimes vehicle forfeitures.

Defenses on a DWI Case

There are many challenges to a DWI. The defenses depend on the particular set of facts in each case. That means a detailed review of all evidence, including police reports, police videos, audio recordings and testing records related to blood alcohol levels is imperative. Often, hidden defenses are found through a thorough review of all evidence.

The fact is that Officers must follow very specific steps as part of the arrest. If any one step is missing, the case may be dismissed.

Other points of a defense analysis include:

· Reasonable Suspicion. The officer must have reasonable suspicion to believe a specific crime has been committed in order to stop a person. If that reasonable suspicion is lacking the stop and the ticket may be invalid;

· Probable Cause to arrest and charge. The officer must make sufficient observations to form a basis for probable cause to believe that you were operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Oftentimes, officers perform field sobriety tests incorrectly making the arrest invalid;

· Procedures at the Station. The officer must follow very specific procedures at the station including reading and recording an Implied Consent Advisory that informs you that you have a right to a lawyer. If any of the steps are omitted, the charges may be dismissed;

· Test Procedures. Testing methods to determine blood alcohol concentrations are imperfect at best. Like any scientific method, any test result has a margin of error. If the machinery is not properly maintained and even if it is properly maintained, the test results may vary from true Blood Alcohol Concentration. A sufficient variation may result in a reduce charge or no charge.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this email message creates an attorney client relationship absent a retainer agreement with this office. Any response to email inquiries should be considered general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. You should always consult a lawyer in your state regarding your specific legal matter.


A 3rd degree DWI is a gross misdemeanor offense which is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $3000.

Possible Driver’s License Sanctions

For a 3rd degree DWI, a revocation of one to two years is likely with eligibility for ignition interlock. Additionally, the offender must pass an alcohol and controlled substance knowledge test, apply for a new Minnesota driver’s license and pay a $680 reinstatement fee. The offender will also face license plate impoundment issues.

A gross misdemeanor DWI a serious offense with severe consequences. An attorney who is experienced with gross misdemeanor DWI’s is invaluable.

Get Avvo’s 3-part DUI email series

A roundup of the best tips and legal advice.

DUI topics

Recommended articles about DUI

What others are asking

Can't find what you're looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer