A Lewiston teen has recently plead guilty to a careless driving charge involving a car crash that killed three teenagers in southeast Minnesota last year, according to an Associated Press report.
The defendant in this case was all of 17 years old during the time of the crash, and is one more statistic to the growing number of teen driving accidents in Minnesota. In fact, the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety says that one in 13 of total DWIs in 2009 were given to drivers under 21 years of age.
No one wants to see their teen involved in traffic accidents and DWI charges, especially given Minnesota’s tough penalties against traffic crimes and drunk driving. A teen driver with a DWI can face up to one year in jail and thousands of dollars in fines and legal costs plus the loss of driving privileges and a DWI record for a minimum of 15 years.
The last item is particularly far-reaching in its impact, as it may bar a teen from any future employment that involves driving. Any future DWIs would also automatically get more complex if a prior record is already present. These are just some of the rarely discussed hidden costs of a Minnesota DUI to take into account.
An experienced Minnesota DWI defense lawyer knows the many interrelated laws that govern DWI and DUI offenses among teen drivers, and should be contacted immediately for legal representation and counsel. In the meantime, here’s a brief look at teen driving-related laws in Minnesota.
Graduated Driver’s License Law (GDL). This 1999 law sets out a multi-tiered program that aims to provide gradual driving privileges to minor drivers depending on their driving record and fulfillment of required driving experience.
In 2008, the State added new restrictions for drivers under 18:
- No nighttime driving between midnight to 5 a.m. for the first six months of the driver’s license
- No more than one passenger under 20 for the first six months of licensure unless accompanied by an adult
- No more than three passengers under 20 for the second six months of licensure unless accompanied by an adult
- Prohibition on the use of a cell phone, text messaging or Internet use while driving
Vanessa’s Law. Enacted in 2004, the law bars an unlicensed teen who received a crash-related violation and/or DWI, Implied Consent, Open Bottle and Not a Drop Law violations to apply for a license until age 18, after which the provisions of the GDL law are to be enforced.
The law also says that a provisional license holder who lost driving privileges due to any of the aforementioned violations should fulfill all reinstatement requirements, complete a formal driver education course, pass the driver’s license knowledge test, obtain and maintain an instruction permit for three months and complete a driver’s behind-the-wheel class.
Not A Drop Law. On top of DWI charges and penalties, anyone under 21 years of age in Minnesota will also have to face Not a Drop law violations if determined to be drinking any amount of alcohol during or prior to driving. The law involves the loss of driver’s license for up to 180 days depending on the driver’s record.
Open A Bottle. Prohibits anyone from possessing a receptacle containing any alcoholic beverage that has been opened, with the seal removed or broken while in a vehicle upon a street or highway.
You can learn more about these laws and applicable exemptions, if any, in this Law Enforcement Guide from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
A teen driving incident charged under any of these laws require a Minnesota DWI defense lawyer who can look at the case and protect the minor’s rights both as an accused and as a non-adult. The sooner an attorney is hired, the better the chances for a charge reduction, acquittal or case dismissal. At the very least, a plea bargain for a lesser charge similar to the case mentioned above can be reached.
Time is a crucial element, especially given the work of examining and challenging the procedures and steps taken by the authorities in stopping, apprehending or making an arrest of a teen driver. Very often missteps and Miranda rights violations occur, which when proven can invalidate State evidence and significantly weaken the case against the teen defendant.
Charged with drunk driving in the Twin Cities? Call the Kans Law Firm, LLC at (888) 972-6060 for a free case review.