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Minnesota DWI Lawyer: Two Sides of Defense

DUI & Criminal Defense

Minneapolis—Saint Paul and Statewide

Do not lose hope. The road ahead is not going to be easy to travel, but there is help.

Hiring a Minnesota DWI attorney as soon as possible may be the single most important action you can take. An arrest on the suspicion of driving under the influence initiates two legal processes. The first is administrative: to remove the arrestee's driving privileges. The second is criminal: to determine whether or not the arrestee has committed a crime. A person can navigate the process alone, but the prudent person will hire a criminal defense lawyer. Criminal charges, including DWI charges, cannot be taken lightly. An attorney will protect your right, ensure the law is followed, and force the prosecution to prove its case against you.

Administrative Hearing: License Suspension

If the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (opens in a new window) has not already taken your driver's license, then contacting an attorney should be on the top of your list. The DPS has the authority, and is statutorily required, to suspend or revoke the driver's license of any person who has been arrested for drunk driving.

The commissioner cannot suspend driving privileges in most cases until after the DPS notifies you by mail that it intends to suspend your driver's license. During that notification period, you may request an administrative hearing to challenge the license suspension. You should have hired an attorney by this point.

If your license has already been revoked, you may appeal the administrative decision to district court. At this point, you should contact an attorney to help you file the appeal and to represent you in court. This appeal will be a court proceeding before a judge. You can represent yourself. You probably should not. Hire a criminal defense attorney.

Criminal Proceedings: Plea Bargain or Trial 

Criminal proceedings will be initiated by the county prosecutor in district court separately from, and potentially concurrently with, the administrative hearing for license suspension. The two proceedings in a legal sense have nothing to do with one another. The administrative hearing cannot be used as evidence in the court proceedings and vice versa.

The criminal process is not complex on a large scale. Basic criminal procedure is not difficult for non-lawyers to understand. In fact, first-year law students are taught criminal procedure, so anyone must be able to learn it.

But you hire a criminal defense attorney not to understand the big picture but to represent you and protect you from the minutiae. You can represent yourself, but are you sure that you will get the best deal? Can you be sure that you will know when to object at trial? Can you be sure that you will know when you have to file documents, how to scrutinize police reports, or examine the arresting police officer on the witness stand? You should hire a lawyer because the potential penalties you face are severe.

As the proceedings move through the procedural phases, you will come to a point where the prosecutor will offer you a plea bargain. The prosecutor will offer you a specific penalty in exchange for your guilty plea. The decision to plead is yours alone; a lawyer cannot make that decision for you. If you do not accept a plea bargain, you will enter a plea of not guilty at a pretrial hearing, and the judge and his or her clerk will set a date for trial.

Plea bargains serve two functions. Pleas reduce the strain on the court system by producing fewer trials that require judicial time and resources. Pleas also allow defendants who are prepared to admit guilt and take responsibility to accept a sentence that will almost assuredly be less than would come from a guilty verdict at trial. Despite the utility of plea bargaining in the judicial system, taking a deal is not the defendant's best option in every case.

Some cases should be defended at trial. Police and prosecutors can make errors. Mistakes and civil rights violations can be grounds for courts to dismiss cases outright.

How will you know if your case might be dismissible? Call criminal and DWI defense attorney Patrick K. Oden.

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Areas of Representation

We represent clients in the following areas (and around all of Minnesota):