There are a lot of ways to get around in Minnesota, even in the winter. However, for many residents, they still think you have to be behind the wheel of a car in order to get a DWI. So when winter rolls around, they decide to dust off those snowmobiles and, because it is not a car, they decide to have a few drinks while they do so. However, make no mistake that if it has a motor, you can get a DWI charge while riding it under the influence.
Snowmobiles, ATVs, boats, and even lawnmowers – all of those vehicles run on motors with varying degrees of power, but if you are riding them under the influence, it is illegal. This means that if you decide to have a few drinks before hitting those snow-laden trails or travelling up to your winter cabin, you better be sure your blood-alcohol content stays below the legal limit of .08 or get ready to face the consequences when caught by law enforcement.
Punishments for SWI
A motor vehicle is a motor vehicle in the eyes of the law no matter what names it goes by. As such, whether you are facing an SWI, BWI, or any other kind of “WI” crime, you will face the same consequences of if you were driving a car and pulled over for a standard DWI.
Punishments for first time SWI offenders, like first time DWI offenses, are relatively tame. Punishments for first time offenses hit a maximum of 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. You will also lose your legal right to ride a snowmobile or any other off-road vehicle (such as an ATV) for a full year. Unlike a standard DWI, an SWI will not affect your privileges to legally drive your car. However, like all DWI charges, an SWI is also an enhanceable charge.
The charge of SWI can be enhanced to higher penalties if it is not your first SWI charge. Unlike with license suspension, this is also affected by prior DWI charges you may have received for driving a car. So if you had a prior DWI charge and then received one while riding your snowmobile in Minnesota, you will face higher penalties. Also like in DWI charges, aggravating factors while riding a snowmobile under the influence will also apply.
This means if you have a blood-alcohol content double the legal limit or were riding the snowmobile with a person 16 years of age or under, even if it is a first offense, you will face harsher penalties. For multiple SWI or other DWI charges within a ten year span, you could be facing maximum penalties of up to $14,000 in fine as well as several years in prison. This is why it is crucial to take drinking and driving any sort of vehicle seriously, because law enforcement sure does.
Motor vehicles are part of the fun of any season, whether it is cruising in your car on a hot summer night or packing your own trail through fresh snow on a snowmobile. While alcohol is seen as naturally enhancing the fun of outdoor activities, you should think twice the next time you head out this winter to snowmobile after a few drinks. It not only puts you at increased risk for danger and injury, but it puts you in the crosshairs of law enforcement.
If you have been caught snowmobiling under the influence in Minnesota, contact us today. Just because you were operating a snowmobile doesn’t makes an SWI charge any less serious. Let the Law Office of Villaume & Schiek work in your best interest to make sure you don’t face the maximum punishments for a simple DWI crime.