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LEGAL ALERT: Major Revision to Minnesota’s DWI Law Took Effect August 1

A major revision to Minnesota’s DWI-related laws has taken effect. The measure, known as “Little Alan’s Law”, became effective August 1, 2018. Among its most significant changes, the new law closes a loophole in Minnesota’s statutes that allowed people who had been charged with a motor vehicle DWI to keep their off-road driving privileges. The law is named after 8-year-old Alan Geisenkoetter Jr., who died in January after being struck by an intoxicated snowmobiler who had previously received multiple DWIs.

THREE BIG CHANGES TO MINNESOTA’S DWI LAW

The revisions made by Little Alan’s Law change Minnesota’s driving-while-impaired laws in three significant ways:

  • First, anyone who receives a motor vehicle DWI conviction, or refuses field sobriety testing, will now also have their privileges for operating an ATV, off-road motorbike, and snowmobile suspended for one year, and their privileges for operating a motorboat suspended for 90 days. The earlier law only imposed these penalties if the person got a DWI, or refused field sobriety testing, while operating off-road vehicles or boats, but didn’t apply to operating off-road vehicles or boats if the person had a  motor vehicle DWI.
  • Second, the law now treats a first-time off-road vehicle or boat DWI conviction as the same as a first-time motor vehicle DWI conviction. The earlier law had exempted first-time off-road and boat DWI convictions from some of the harsher provisions of the motor-vehicle DWI law, including the possibility of being convicted of first-degree driving while impaired, losing operating privileges, and being required to submit to long-term monitoring.
  • Third, the law extends the “not a drop” provisions of Minnesota DWI law, which bar anyone under 21-years-old from operating a motor vehicle after having consumed any alcohol. Before, the “not a drop” provisions didn’t apply to the operation of off-road vehicles and boats. Now they do.

QUESTIONS ANSWERED ABOUT THE NEW DWI LAWS

Minnesotans who are facing DWI charges, or have previous DWI convictions, may have a number of questions about these new laws. Here are some common questions and answers based on the current language and understanding of the new provisions:

  • I got a DWI conviction before the new law took effect. Do the new provisions apply to me? No. According to the text of the revised law, the changes only apply to DWI violations that were committed on or after August 1, 2018. That also means that if you were stopped for a DWI before August 1, but haven’t been formally charged yet, the law will not apply to you.
  • I have a previous non-DWI driving felony conviction. Does the new law affect me? Yes. If you’ve never had a DWI, but you have a previous non-DWI driving felony conviction, the new law means that if you get a DWI while operating an off-road vehicle or boat, you can be convicted of first-degree driving while impaired, which is a felony.
  • What’s the big deal about having a few beers while I’m out on my boat? The big deal is that operating a boat while intoxicated is dangerous and can subject to you criminal sanctions if you operate while your blood alcohol level is over the legal limit (or, if you’re under 21, while you have any alcohol in your system at all). If you’re going to be drinking on the water or in the woods, make sure you have a sober driver.
  • I’ve just been arrested for a DWI while riding my ATV. Now what? Do not speak further with law enforcement or consent to any further searches and seizures. The changes brought about by Little Alan’s Law will apply to you if you’re convicted. Contact experienced Minnesota DWI defense attorney Jennifer Speas today to discuss how she may be able to help protect your right to operate an off-road vehicle, boat, or motor vehicle.