Snowmobile season is rapidly approaching here in Minnesota. In preparation, Minnesota riders are fine tuning their sleds and gearing up to hit over 22,000 miles of groomed trails our state has to offer. With more registered snowmobiles than any other state, snowmobiling is undoubtedly an immensely popular activity during Minnesota winters. While getting ready to ride the trails, it is also important to be aware of Minnesota’s laws regarding snowmobiling while intoxicated (SWI).
Currently, Minnesota DNR is supporting “Zero Alcohol” consumption for snowmobilers. You still need a .08 blood alcohol content (BAC) to reach the legal limit for snowmobiling while intoxicated (SWI). But it is important to be aware that the DNR will be stepping up its enforcement of snowmobiling while intoxicated (SWI) in light of its Zero Alcohol coalition. This means more stops by law enforcement and likely more arrests to follow.
Minnesota law makes it a crime to operate, or be in physical control, of a snowmobile while under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or a hazardous substance that impairs your ability to drive or operate a snowmobile. (Minn. Stat. § 169A.20 Subd. 1b). Refusing to submit to a blood, urine, or breath test is also a crime. If no aggravating factors (e.g. BAC over .20, a prior DWI within 10 years, and a child under 16 as a passenger) are present, then you will be facing a misdemeanor offense.
Misdemeanors carry a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. If one or two aggravating factors are present, then you will be charged with a gross misdemeanor. The maximum penalty for a gross misdemeanor DWI is 1 year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine. If three or more aggravating factors are present, then you are facing a felony. A Felony DWI is subject to a maximum sentence of 7 years in prison and/or a $14,000 fine. Not only will you face serious criminal penalties for SWI, you are subject to civil penalties as well.
Civil Penalties (Loss of Snowmobile
Privileges and Driver’s License Revocations)
If convicted of Snowmobiling While Intoxicated as a DWI, the state will take away your right to operate a snowmobile for one year. A first-time offender, with no prior DWIs, is not subject to license revocation sanctions or plate impoundment orders. A second offense or more within ten years, however, will make you subject to driver’s license and license plate sanctions. A skilled criminal defense attorney will know how to fight, and fight successfully, the revocations to your snowmobiling and driving privileges.
There is sure to be an abundance of riders snowmobiling on Minnesota’s trails this winter. Careful planning should also include a sober driver. But if you find yourself charged with Snowmobiling While Intoxicated (SWI), it is important to get help from an experienced DWI Lawyer in Minnesota. They will fight for your rights and can help you avoid costly criminal and civil penalties.