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Can You Get a DWI While Snowmobiling?

Winter is the favorite time of year for snowmobiling in Minnesota. From the first snowfall, to the weeks of packed powder, the winter recreational vehicle is popular among Minnesotans – making DWI arrests a regular thing. 

According to the Minnesota Snowmobile Industry, there are 220,000 snowmobiles registered in the state. The economic impact of snowmobiling in the state alone is an estimated $1 billion each year.

The state’s snowmobiling fund, which is generated through snowmobile registration fees, trail stickers, and unrefunded gas tax, pays for the maintenance of approximately 22,000 miles of Minnesota trails.

Snowmobiling in Minnesota provides more than 7,000 jobs in tourism, manufacturing and retail activity, generates annual state and local tax revenue of $51.7 million and contributes $501 million to the Gross State Product according to an economic impact study completed by the University of Minnesota Tourism Center. 

The average snowmobiler spends $4,000 each year on snowmobile related recreation according to a recent survey done by the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association.

Snow cover throughout Minnesota, including on many of the 22,000 miles of trails that traverse the state, have led to a surge in the number of people taking advantage of a fun and unique way to enjoy Minnesota’s outdoors. 

But like any other vehicle, there are laws surrounding the use and operation of snowmobiles, including laws concerning drinking while operating a snowmobile or snowmobiling while intoxicated (SWI). According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, drinking and riding is one of two main factors in crashes, and plays a role in about 60 percent of those that are fatal. When you consider that the modern snowmobile can weigh in excess of 600 pounds and travel at speeds exceeding 90 miles per hour, it all comes down to safety. 

An important week this month was International Snowmobile Safety Week, January 18-26, and it is helpful to remember that it is illegal in Minnesota to operate a snowmobile while you are under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or other hazardous substances such as some prescription or over-the-counter medications. Obviously, it is illegal on any day, not just during safety week.

Minnesota law states that a person is considered to be snowmobiling while intoxicated if he or she has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more. The American Council of Snowmobile Associations reported that the highest proportion of alcohol-related snowmobile crashes occurring at night are among 19-34 year old males.

If you have been stopped or arrested for snowmobiling while intoxicated, Minnesota DWI defense lawyer Gerald Miller is here to help you. Call us today at 612-440-4610. Contact us anytime. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to give you some answers, a little hope and plenty of well-deserved peace of mind.

Operating a snowmobile while under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance or its metabolite, or other hazardous substance is against the law in Minnesota. Operators who are impaired may be required to submit to tests by an enforcement officer to determine the presence of these substances. There is a separate additional criminal penalty for refusal to submit to the tests, and the person’s snowmobiling privileges will be suspended for one year upon refusal. SWI convictions and refusals are recorded on the violator’s driver’s license record and affect their driver’s license privileges. 

Before you answer any questions, agree to any tests, or sign any form, you should insist on speaking to your DWI lawyer. Minnesota DWI defense lawyer Gerald Miller and his team can help defend you and your rights. Our team handles all aspects of criminal law across the Twin Cities and statewide. When asked to participate in field sobriety tests (FSTs) or a portable breath test, Minnesota law provides motorists with the right to talk to their attorney before deciding whether to participate in those tests. Call us at 612-440-4610. Remember, we are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help you.

An operator who is found to be impaired or has an alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more, can be charged with a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or felony level snowmobiling while intoxicated. People convicted of a misdemeanor will be subject to: up to $1,000 fine (plus surcharges); possible jail sentence; and loss of snowmobile operating privileges, depending on the circumstances. 

In addition, gross misdemeanor penalty provisions may apply if the person has any prior DWI, SWI or other alcohol violations involving recreational vehicles (ATVs, boats, etc), has an alcohol concentration of twice the legal limit, or has a child younger than 16 years of age with them on the snowmobile. These include up to $3,000 fine with longer mandatory jail time and possible forfeiture of the snowmobile. If a person has three or more DWI convictions or revocations in the last 10 years, or has a prior felony conviction, he or she can be sentenced to 3 to 7 years in jail, up to $14,000 in fines, or both. Longer license revocations also would be imposed. So, even if the offense is on a snowmobile, the enhancement laws of MN still apply.

In addition, Minnesota DWI/SWI law for underage drivers includes a “zero tolerance” policy. According to this law, a driver younger than 21 years of age who is detected either “operating” or “in control” of a snowmobile with any measurable amount of alcohol in his or her body will be subject to special penalties.

If arrested and charged, the young person risks severe penalties against their driving privileges if the prosecutor is able to prove the charges. The motorist’s driver’s license will be suspended for 30 days for a conviction to their first offense and 180 days for a second offense.

 The situation goes from bad to worse for underage motorists with a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent or above. Along with the penalties indicated above, they also are subject to the full spectrum of penalties that can be imposed.

I Got a DWI: What Now? 

That is a lot of scary information, but remember, you are not alone. The office of Minnesota DWI defense lawyer Gerald Miller is here to help you. Call us today at 612-440-4610. Contact us anytime. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to give you some answers, a little hope, and plenty of well-deserved peace of mind.

Snowmobiling takes place in unpredictable and uncontrollable natural settings. And being both a motorsport and a winter sport, it is considered to be more dangerous than many other sports. In 2018, Minnesota lawmakers enacted legislation which makes it illegal for Minnesotans convicted of DWI to drive snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles and boats in addition to cars, trucks and vans if their driver’s licenses are suspended or revoked. Before the change in the law, motorists convicted of DWI whose license was suspended or revoked were still legally allowed to operate snowmobiles, ATVs and boats.

That’s why Minnesota law enforcement — including the Department of Natural Resources — actively encourages a “Zero Alcohol” practice when it comes to snowmobiling. Because of this, officers may be monitoring areas of snowmobile traffic more aggressively than you may realize.

Whether you are stopped by a police officer or DNR officer, they will attempt to get you to answer questions about whether you have been drinking and where you are coming from before the stop. Snowmobile drivers should remember their right to remain silent and politely decline to answer these questions or provide other information until you have legal counsel present.

 Additionally, Minnesota’s implied consent law requires motorists to submit to a formal breath test at the police station, but that requirement does not extend to field sobriety tests. In other words, you are fully within your right to politely decline participation in any FSTs. The sole purpose of these tests is to furnish the officer with sufficient evidence to justify a SWI arrest.

The Minneapolis lawyers at Gerald Miller handle all aspects of criminal law across the Twin Cities and statewide – we can defend you on traffic citations, drug charges, theft, weapons charges, probation and parole violations and more. A DWI – or SWI –  affects your driving ability, your finances and your professional reputation. Don’t let one mistake hinder a promising future, or keep you from enjoying one of your favorite winter pastimes.

Some other precautions (courtesy of the Minnesota Safety Council) to keep in mind while snowboarding include:

  • Slow down. Speed limits are posted for a reason. In Minnesota, it’s illegal to operate a snowmobile in excess of 50 mph on any public lands or waters or in excess of posted trail limits. It is also illegal to operate at a speed greater than the various trail, terrain and visibility conditions dictate.
  • Pay attention to signs. Snowmobile trail signs are similar to road signs because they alert the rider to conditions. These markers indicate whether or not snowmobiles are permitted, whether a trail is a one- or two-way trail, and when an intersection is approaching. Riders also employ hand signals to indicate turns or stopping.
  • Tread lightly. Be aware of the impact your sport has on the environment. Minnesota law prohibits the use of metal studded tracks on DNR paved trails. Always wait until there is enough snow cover to protect both the environment and your sled. Pack your trash; littering is both illegal and inconsiderate.
  • Know the laws. Anyone over the age of 18 may register and operate a snowmobile. There are a number of restrictions for those under the age of 18. Anyone born after December 31, 1976, must possess a Snowmobile Safety Certificate before they may legally operate a snowmobile. Even if you’re older than that, or a novice rider, consider taking a certification course; it can help make you a better rider.
  • Ride only on the groomed portion of designated trails or on private land where you have permission. Check with local authorities if you are unsure where to legally operate your machine.

Enjoy the ride!

About Gerald Miller, P.A.

Were you or someone you love arrested for DWI, BWI or SWI? The process can be worrisome – or even frightening. There is a lot of legal jargon to weave through and court dates to attend.

You’re not alone. We can help, whether it’s your first DWI or if you’ve been convicted in the past. 

If you are facing a Minnesota DWI conviction, the experienced Minneapolis DWI attorneys at Gerald Miller, P.A. will review your case and determine the best course of action. We will guide you through the process, working toward a positive outcome no matter the circumstances of the arrest. Our firm has a high success rate. We’ve fought cases all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court. We dig into every aspect of the case, from the time of the arrest the officer’s actions to the accuracy of your Breathalyzer test.

What makes Gerald Miller different from other Minnesota criminal defense lawyers?

The Minneapolis lawyers at Gerald Miller handle all aspects of criminal law across the Twin Cities and statewide, but we have focused on DWIs for nearly 40 years. A DWI affects your driving ability, your finances, and your professional reputation. Don’t let one mistake negatively impact your future. 

We have earned dozens of positive Google, Yelp and Facebook reviews from satisfied clients. Our firm is widely recognized throughout the Twin Cities for our professionalism, compassion, knowledge, and dedication both in and out of the courtroom. The Minneapolis DWI attorneys at Gerald Miller DWI Law Firm are respected by our peers, colleagues, judges, and prosecutors. We have earned national awards and accolades from the American Bar Association, The National Trial Lawyers, the American Institute of DWI/DUI Attorneys, the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys, the National Academy for DUI Defense, and more. 

Gerald Miller, P.A. also has received the elite “SuperLawyer” distinction by Thomson Reuters. 

Legal Counsel is Critical to Success

The sooner you contact us, the faster we can start protecting your rights.  Even if your case cannot be dismissed, the charges may be reduced and punishment can be minimized, which are positive outcomes as well. There are a number of details in each person’s case that could have a huge impact on the possible outcome. It also helps if you were cooperative at the time of your arrest and if you followed the court’s requirements prior to your hearing, including completing an alcohol assessment and/or DWI classes.

Contact us today to schedule your free and confidential case evaluation at 612-430-6743. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to give you some answers, a little hope, and plenty of well-deserved peace of mind. Visit www.geraldmillerlawyer.com or check us out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

About the author

Gerald Miller

Gerald Miller is a top-notch and experienced DWI/DUI lawyer at Gerald Miller P.A. in Minneapolis, MN. He has more than 35 years of experience in Criminal Defense practice. He has also been a mentor to numerous DUI/DWI defense attorneys.

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