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New Minnesota DWI law goes into effect Aug. 1

A new Minnesota law that goes into effect Wednesday, Aug. 1 means people convicted of driving while intoxicated -- regardless of the vehicle they're driving -- will lose their driver's license and be prohibited from operating motor vehicles, incl...

Drinking and driving.jpg
iStock/AlexRaths

A new Minnesota law that goes into effect Wednesday, Aug. 1 means people convicted of driving while intoxicated - regardless of the vehicle they're driving - will lose their driver's license and be prohibited from operating motor vehicles, including all-terrain vehicles, motorboats and snowmobiles.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced specifics of the new law Wednesday.

The state Legislature passed the law after the death of 8-year-old Alan Geisenkoetter Jr., who died in January after being struck by a snowmobile driven by a man whose driver's license was revoked after multiple DWI offenses.

Before the law change, people convicted of DWI in a highway-licensed vehicle still could legally operate ATVs, motorboats and snowmobiles. The changes apply to violations that occur on or after Aug. 1.

"We have zero tolerance for people who endanger themselves and other people by operating a motor vehicle or recreational vehicle while they're intoxicated," Col. Rodmen Smith, director of the Minnesota DNR Enforcement Division, said in a statement. "This new law should send the message that drinking and driving - no matter what the vehicle - isn't acceptable and the consequences are severe."

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As an example, a person convicted of DWI in a motorboat, or who refuses testing for a motorboat DWI, would have their driver's license suspended and be prohibited from operating ATVs, motorboats and snowmobiles for one year. Additionally, first-time DWI offenders operating off-road recreational vehicles or motorboats also will be subject to chemical use assessments, conditional release and plate impoundment - the same as a DWI in a highway-licensed vehicle.

The Minnesota DNR and other law enforcement agencies in the state, along with ATV and snowmobile groups, supported the law change, which passed the Legislature with bipartisan support and was signed into law in May by Gov. Mark Dayton.

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