Driving While Intoxicated (“DWI”) or Driving Under the Influence (“DUI”) charges in Mankato, Minnesota, can be an unnerving experience, with potentially severe consequences, including fines and jail. One of the challenges for individuals facing DWI charges is being in limbo and all the unknowns of your case outcome. This is why it is imperative to have an attorney who not only listens, but also can help you navigate through the case.
In this blog, we will explore what DWI charges entail, why it is crucial to hire a DWI attorney in Mankato, and how they can help you navigate through this perplexing legal situation.
Understanding DWI Charges
DWI or DUI is a serious offense in Minnesota. When you are charged with a DWI in Minnesota you are typically charged with two counts of DWI. The first count consists of what I like to call “an old-fashioned DWI.” It means that based upon the officers’ training and experience, they believe you are under the influence of alcohol or a drug. The second charge is more of what you’d typically think of when thinking about DWI charges. This second charge means that a person operates a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher or drives under the influence of a drug.
Blue Earth County prosecutors, as well as all prosecutors in Southern Minnesota, take DWI charges very seriously. They have strict penalties in place for those convicted. These penalties may include fines, license suspension, mandatory alcohol education programs, and probation. They may also include jail time, depending on the BAC test score, and the number of prior DWI convictions.
Why You Need a DWI / DUI Attorney
Facing DWI charges without skilled legal representation can be risky. An accomplished DWI attorney in Mankato, MN, can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. They have in-depth knowledge of Minnesota’s DWI laws, procedures, and potential defenses. They are also local so they know the local rules of Court, what a good outcome would be, and have relationships with the Court system. They can evaluate your case, find any weaknesses, and craft a solid defense strategy tailored to your situation. The attorney you hire can make all the difference in the world.
Understanding the legal process for DWI / DUI charges is essential for anyone facing this situation in Mankato, MN. Typically, the process involves several key stages:
- The Arrest: DWI / DUI charges typically begin with a traffic stop in which law enforcement suspects impairment of some type. If the officer has reasonable suspicion, they may ask you to perform standardized field sobriety tests (SFST) or take a preliminary breath test (PBT). Failing these tests or not passing all of them can lead to an arrest. Following an arrest, you are typically taken to the police station for a breath test on the DataMaster or to the hospital for a blood draw or urine test.
- Booking: After your arrest, you will be taken to the law enforcement center (LEC) for booking. This includes recording your personal information, fingerprinting, and taking a photo. Depending on prior DWI convictions or BAC test score you may be detained until a bail hearing is held.
- First Appearance: You will have a first appearance in court where you will be informed of the charges against you. This is a critical point where your DWI attorney can start building your defense. Bail or bond amounts and conditions of release will be set. The Court will then set your case for another court appearance.
- Litigation: Your attorney will gather evidence, review police reports, and explore potential defenses. A contested hearing may be scheduled to figure out the evidence that the State can use against you at trial. Your attorney may also negotiate with the prosecution to reach a plea agreement or prepare for trial.
- Trial: If a plea agreement cannot be reached, your case will go forward to trial. Your DWI attorney will present evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and argue on your behalf. The outcome will depend on the strength of your defense and the evidence presented.
- Sentencing: If you are found guilty at trial or choose to accept a plea agreement, the court will determine the punishment for your offense. Your attorney should be ready to not only argue your sentence but also be able to show that you are an individual who made an error and not someone with a pattern of criminal behavior. The penalties imposed at sentencing could involve fines, probation, temporary suspension of your license, mandatory alcohol education as dictated by the law and, in some situations, even a jail term.
What are the Key Roles of a DWI / DUI Attorney
- Legal Expertise: A DWI lawyer has a deep understanding of Minnesota’s DWI laws. They should be able to use their expertise to properly explain the charges, discuss the potential of a worst-case scenario, how to mitigate such a situation, and the plan of attack to get the best possible outcome. They should also have the ability to assess the legality of the traffic stop, arrest, and chemical tests conducted.
- Defense Strategy: When looking to defend the DWI, I always say the devil is in the details. What that means is small decisions by law enforcement can mean the difference in your case being dismissed or conviction. Your lawyer needs to develop a defense strategy based on the specific details of your case, which may include challenging the accuracy of breathalyzer or blood tests, questioning the validity of the traffic stop, or negotiating for reduced charges.
- Negotiation Skills: In some cases, a lawyer can negotiate with the prosecution for a plea bargain, potentially reducing the charges or penalties you face. This is why it is important to have an attorney that is local. Without this knowledge, you will not know what a proper offer would be in the case, how to get a better offer, and what needs to be done to get the best possible outcome.
- Court Representation: When individuals are hiring an attorney, it is all they think about. This is only a small percentage of what a lawyer should be doing. While it is important that your attorney is versed in the court process, it is the behind scenes work that can have the biggest impact on the outcome of the case.
Choosing the Right DWI / DUI Attorney in Mankato, MN
Selecting the right DWI attorney is crucial. You want the best lawyer, but how do you make that decision? Look for an attorney with experience in handling DWI / DUI cases in Mankato, a successful record, and effective communication skills. Researching these items, seeking recommendations from others in the legal field, and taking advantage of free consultations can help you make an informed decision.
Facing DWI charges in Mankato, MN, is a serious matter that requires professional legal guidance. Hiring an experienced DWI lawyer is your best chance at protecting your rights and minimizing the impact of these charges on your life. Do not hesitate to reach out to a qualified DWI lawyer in Mankato if you find yourself in this challenging situation.
Tom Hagen is a partner at Kohlmeyer Hagen Law Firm. He is an award-winning lawyer with offices in Mankato and Rochester, Minnesota. He focuses his practice solely in criminal law with an emphasis on serious crimes, drug, and DWI charges. You can contact him at 507-625-5000 or via the contact form below.