Beginning August 1, a revised Driving While Impaired (DWI) law takes effect in Minnesota. The new law is applicable to crimes committed on or after that date. The revisions are implemented in response to the catastrophic death of an 8 (eight) year old boy that occurred this past winter. The boy, Alan Geisenkoetter Jr., was struck and killed by a man, Eric Coleman, who was heavily intoxicated while operating a snowmobile. Coleman’s driver’s license was revoked at the time of the accident and had been revoked previously after multiple motor vehicle DWI convictions. The new law has been coined “Little Alan’s Law” in honor of Alan.
The goal of lawmakers is to close a loophole in DWI law that allowed those convicted of motor vehicle DWI offenses to legally continue to operate off-road vehicles, including snowmobiles and ATVs. The law will now prohibit a person convicted of any DWI from operating a motor vehicle or any other off-road vehicle for a specified period of time. In other words, there is no longer a penal distinction between motor vehicle DWI and off-road DWI. The new law also prohibits those convicted of any DWI from operating a motorboat for a 90 (ninety) day period between May 1 and October 31, which is peak boating season.
The expansion of prohibitions relating to the operation of off-road vehicles following a motor vehicle DWI conviction has received substantial support across Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, members of law enforcement, and the Minnesota United Snowmobile Association argue these revisions are necessary and overdue. They note off-road vehicles are heavy, fast, and capable of causing severe injury and death to people of all ages and sizes. It is argued there is no meaningful distinction between operating a motorboat, an ATV, or a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Colonel Rodmen Smith, Director of the Minnesota DNR Enforcement Division, stressed the agency’s position: “We have zero tolerance for people who endanger themselves and other people by operating a motor vehicle or recreational vehicle while they’re intoxicated.” He continued: “This new law should send the message that drinking and driving – no matter what the vehicle – isn’t acceptable and the consequences are severe.”
At Rinke Noonan we have experienced criminal defense attorneys up-to-date on these revisions and all things criminal defense. Should you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to contact us. We would be happy to assist you.
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