An Unexpected Detour: Know your options when facing a DWI charge and license revocation

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Credit  Kelly Sater, Attorney &
Josh Brekken, Attorney


You’ve been pulled over, tested for alcohol, and charged with a DWI. It’s a moment you’d like to forget, but these things have a way of following you around with ongoing consequences.

Let’s start with the bad news (we promise there’s some good news later): your license can, and likely will be revoked, even before you are convicted of the DWI. Why? In addition to any criminal charges you face resulting from your DWI, you’ll also have to deal with a civil case. These are completely separate cases, and one doesn’t necessarily have any bearing on the other. The criminal case affects your criminal records, but the civil case could affect your license and driving privileges.

Key phrase: “Could affect.” There’s a potential solution. Stay tuned.

First: why is license revocation tied to civil law? It boils down to implied consent. Your driver’s license is considered a matter of civil privilege—it’s not a right—and when you drive on the roads in Minnesota, you are consenting to have your blood alcohol tested, if there is probable cause to believe you are under the influence. So, even if your charges are dismissed in your criminal DWI case, you could still be bumming rides for 90 days (in the case of a misdemeanor) or up to a year (in the case of a gross misdemeanor) if you neglect your civil implied-consent case. And it happens fast. License revocation usually takes place within seven days of the alleged offense.

Here’s that potential solution: just like you can contest criminal charges in a DWI case, you can also contest the revocation of your license.

How to do it? Consult with an attorney who has experience on both the criminal and civil side of DWI cases. Your attorney can file a petition on your behalf to contest license revocation. While there’s no guarantee your petition will be granted, there is a potentially positive component (this is the good news we teased earlier): by filing the petition, you can ask the court to suspend your license revocation while the criminal case is proceeding.

Translation: you could get your license reinstated and hang onto it until your criminal case is resolved. But only if you act fast. If you’re facing DWI charges, contact an attorney right away. You have a limited amount of time to file a petition in your civil case.

Of course, there is fine print involved. This only works in certain counties and with specific degrees (e.g. severity level) of DWIs. There’s also the possibility that you could face vehicle forfeiture and/or license plate impoundment.

Feeling overwhelmed? We don’t blame you. And we’ve barely scratched the surface of DWIs. What happens to your license if you plead guilty to the DWI? Which degree offense leads to license plate impoundment? What are the factors that play into whether your DWI charges could be dismissed? How much is up to the judge’s discretion? What are the filing fees?

All these unknowns add stress to an already stressful situation. We’re here to help. At Johnson/Turner Legal, our attorneys are well-versed in both the criminal and civil sides of your case. We will advocate on your behalf, guide you through every step of the process, and answer any questions you have along the way. The path forward may be bumpy, but we’ll be along for the ride to smooth things out.