Minnesota Drivers Can Face Criminal Charges for Distracted Driving
Unfortunately, distracted driving incidents are happening more and more nationwide. According to the Minnesota Public Safety Department, approximately one in four vehicle accidents in Minnesota are the result of distracted driving. More often than not, distracted driving is the result of texting while driving and can lead to both civil and criminal consequences.
In the civil context, if you text and drive and are involved in an accident that results in serious injury or death, you can be responsible for significant monetary damages that compensate the injured party.
Criminal charges depend on the specific facts and circumstances of the case. You can face charges that range from mere traffic tickets to felonies with lengthy jail sentences and/or significant fines.
Know the Facts about Distracted Driving Laws in Minnesota
In Minnesota, it is illegal to drive while utilizing a wireless communication device to read, compose, or send an electronic message when the motor vehicle is in motion. An electronic message can be a text or email, or even accessing the Internet from your electronic device.
This conduct is illegal because it can significantly interfere with your duty to drive with due care, meaning that you are responsible for being aware of potential and actual hazards on the road and that you must operate your vehicle with due care. Texting while driving can adversely affect your ability to drive responsibly and with due care because
- Your eyes are not on the road, even if only for a few seconds
- One or both hands are not on the steering wheel
- You might be lost or focused on your text conversation, rather than on driving
- You are multi-tasking or trying to do something else in the vehicle, such as turning up the radio or the heat while texting and driving
Most often, people who are found to be texting while driving are not charged with a crime but are instead charged with a petty misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $300 and no jail time.
However, if you drive while distracted and it causes you to engage in reckless or careless driving, you can be charged with a misdemeanor offense, and maybe even with a gross misdemeanor if your conduct causes bodily harm to another.
Penalties for a misdemeanor conviction can include up to ninety days in jail, and a fine of up to $1,000. Gross misdemeanors are punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $3,000.
In some particularly egregious circumstances, if you drive while distracted, you may even face felony charges, especially if your behavior or conduct causes significant bodily harm to another. In these instances, you can face up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
If the conduct results in the death of another, it is possible to face up to ten years in jail and a fine of up to $20,000.
Need More Information or Legal Advice?
If you have been arrested and charged with distracted driving in Minnesota, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced Minnesota Criminal Defense Lawyer as soon as possible. At Gerald Miller, P.A., our attorneys are ready to help you in the fight to protect your rights.
We are available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, so call us today at (612) 440-3677 to schedule your free and confidential case evaluation.