Most people who live in Minnesota understand the potentially devastating consequences of a DWI conviction. Fewer people are aware that exposure to these harsh civil and criminal penalties apply even if you are operating a vehicle other than a car, truck, van, or SUV. While many types of motorized modes of transportation are considered “motor vehicles,” the reach of our state’s DWI laws applies to a range of off-road vehicles that often are viewed by users as more of a “recreational toy.”
The Definition of a Motor Vehicle
If you have been drinking while enjoying some time at your cabin and have concerns that you might be intoxicated, it is important to know whether you are about to operate an off-road vehicle and risk a DWI arrest. If the recreational wheeled device has a motor, there is a good chance it will be considered a motor vehicle. In State v. Greenman, for example, the Minnesota Court of Appeals considered whether a Segway qualified as a motor vehicle. While the device is a mechanically self-propelled and wheeled mode of transportation, the court emphasized that a Segway does not have a motor. Based on this lack of a motor, the court classified a Segway as an “electric personal assistive device” rather than a motor vehicle.
The Definition of an Off-Road Vehicle
Under Minnesota law, off-road vehicles include motor propelled recreational vehicles that are capable of cross-country travel on terrain other than a road. Examples of off-road vehicles generally considered to conform to this definition include all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), dirt bikes, and snowmobiles. While ATVs come in different configurations, DWI law applies to these vehicle whether they have three, four or even six wheels. Because of the popularity of outdoor recreational activities in our state, many hours are logged on snowmobiles, quads, and other off-road vehicles which can result in civil and criminal DWI penalties.
DWI and Off-Road Vehicles
If you are arrested for DWI involving a snowmobile or other type of off-road recreational vehicle, the criminal DWI penalties correspond closely to a drunk driving offense involving a passenger car. As with DWI charges involving a car, motorists operating an off-road vehicle can be convicted if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or above or they are operating the motor vehicle while their physical or mental driving ability is impaired. Further, Minnesota’s implied consent law, which mandates drivers lawfully arrested for DWI submit to a BAC chemical test, also applies to individuals operating a snowmobile or other recreational vehicle.
Penalties Still Apply
Most people using these “recreational toys” probably do not consider their conduct as dangerous as driving a passenger car while intoxicated on a highway or city street. However, the seriousness of the charge and punishment will still be enhanced if the individual has a “qualified prior impaired driving incident” within a ten year period. If you have a prior DWI conviction or intoxicated driving-related loss of your license, this could result in your being charged with a gross misdemeanor or felony.
The civil consequences of a Minnesota DWI involving an off-road vehicle differ somewhat from DWIs involving cars. A first offense conviction for DWI while traversing snow drifts on a snowmobile will not result in suspension of the operator’s Class D driver’s license. However, a one year administrative suspension of the individual’s privilege to operate off-road vehicles will be imposed. The situation is much more serious with a prior DWI conviction within a ten year period regardless of whether the prior offense involved a car or off-road vehicle. An individual arrested under these circumstances will face exposure to a suspension of his or her Class D driver’s license.
If you have been arrested for DWI while operating an ATV, snowmobile, or other off-road vehicle, we invite you to speak to a Minnesota DWI Lawyer at Gerald Miller, P.A. as soon as possible. The sooner you contact us the sooner we can start protecting your rights. Contact us today at (612) 440-3212 to schedule your free and confidential case evaluation.