A different set of laws apply to someone under 21 who is consuming alcohol and operating a vehicle than to someone over 21. If you or your child have been charged with an underage DWI, it is important to consult with an experienced DWI attorney.
Minnesota’s “Zero Tolerance” Underage Drinking and Driving Law
Minnesota has a “Zero Tolerance” policy for underage drinkers operating a vehicle. M.S.A. § 169A.33 applies to anyone under 21 years old who is caught “operating or in control of a motor vehicle while consuming alcoholic beverages, or after having consumed alcoholic beverages while there is physical evidence of consumption present in the person’s body.” This doesn’t require a person to have a blood alcohol level of 0.08 – it means any alcohol present is illegal. In such a case, the underage person will suspend the person’s driver’s license or operating privileges for 30 days on the first offense, and 180 days for any additional offenses.
Minor DWI | Drinking and Driving Under The Age Of 18
Minnesota also has laws which apply solely to minors under 18 years old. If the minor is under 18, he or she will lose any existing driver’s license. The licensing process will have to start over – when the person is 18. This means that when a licensed driver under 18 is caught consuming any amount of alcohol while driving, he will lose his license and have to reapply for a driver’s permit when he reaches 18.
Anyone under 21 who is caught driving or in physical control of a vehicle with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or above is subject to the normal DWI penalties laid out in M.S.A. § 169A.54.
A few things to remember about Minnesota underage DWI laws:
The statute says “in control of a motor vehicle.” For example, if a person is passed out in the front seat of a vehicle with the keys in the ignition, that person is “in control” of the vehicle for purposes of the statute. In some cases, a couple of 18 year old’s have been sitting on the tailgate of a pickup, drinking a beer, and listening to the radio with the keys in the ignition. Here, the 18 year old’s have been found to be “in control” of the vehicle. In other cases, people have been found to be “in control” of the vehicle just by having keys on their person
The law is not limited to consumption of alcohol. Any substance that impairs a person’s driving abilities (drugs, marijuana, etc.) are treated the same as alcohol for the purposes of enforcing this statute. Any illegal substances, however, may subject a person to criminal sanctions governing the use or possession of the substance over and above the driving statute at issue.
This law does not apply to persons operating a boat or off-road recreational vehicles. A completely different set of rules will apply.
Anyone stopped by the police must comply with the chemical (alcohol or drugs) tests. A person will automatically lose his license for 90 days (impaired or not) for not complying to the tests the officer is attempting to administer. A person doesn’t have to “touch your nose, count to ten, say the alphabet, etc. A person is only required to blow into the breath machine (or applicable drug-testing machine) if such a test is offered.