Little Alan’s Law and its Impact on ATV, Snowmobile, and Motorboat Users

On August 1, 2018, Little Alan’s Law went into effect in Minnesota. This law involves DWI’s, specifically focusing on snowmobiles, ATV’s, and motorboats. With approximately 220,000 registered snowmobiles in Minnesota, this law will have a wide-ranging impact. Signed into law by Governor Mark Dayton in May and supported by ATV and snowmobile groups, Little Alan’s Law promises major changes in DWI enforcement and repercussions in Minnesota.

First of all – who was Alan Geisenkoetter, Jr?

Tragically, in January of 2018 an eight-year-old boy named Alan Geisenkoetter, Jr, was struck by a snowmobile driver, Eric Coleman, in Chisago County. Several days later, the boy died. Coleman, who was allegedly drunk at the time of the incident, had a storied history replete with DWI offenses.  However, because of the legal structure that allowed continued use of snowmobiles, this didn’t legally prevent him from driving the snowmobile that struck Alan. This incident sparked a change in DWI laws throughout the state. There are two main situations to consider. The first is a conviction of a DWI while operating a motor vehicle and the second is conviction while operating a snowmobile, ATV, or motor boat.

1. Situation One: the DWI occurs while operating a motor vehicle

  • What stays the same: Many of the laws surrounding DWI conviction remain the same despite Little Alan’s Law. For example, the offender will still lose their license, with the length of time of license loss corresponding to their blood alcohol level at the time of the DWI, previous offenses, and whether or not they refused a chemical test.
  • What changes for snowmobiles and ATV operators: Under Little Alan’s Law, there are some significant changes to drivers and owners of snowmobiles and ATV’s. Most significantly, those convicted with a DWI while operating a motor vehicle will now be restricted from operating snowmobiles and ATVs for one year.
  • What changes for motor boat operators: Under Little Alan’s Law, those convicted with a DWI will also lose boat operating privileges for 90 days within the window of May 1st to October 31st of any given year. It’s a carry-over system, so any portion of the 90-day revocation that falls outside the window of May 1st to October 21st rolls into the next season until a full 90 days has been completed.

2. Situation Two: the DWI occurs while operating a snowmobile, ATV, or boat

A first-time DWI offense while operating a snowmobile, ATV, or boat (as opposed to a regular motor vehicle), will be subject to the same penalties as a motor vehicle operator.  This could include having plates impounded, chemical use assessment, and conditional release.

A motorboat operator convicted of DWI will be subject to having their driver’s license suspended and won’t be able to operate snowmobiles, ATV’s, or motorboats for a period of a year. But it’s not just those who are convicted who lose their privileges: by refusing a chemical test, the motor boat operator will suffer the same lost privileges for a year.

3. Situation Three: Underage Drinking & Driving Charges

What stays the same: Prior to Little Alan’s Law, there were already laws in effect governing the use of ATVs and snowmobiles for underage drivers.

What’s changed: Now, in addition to penalties for users of ATVs and snowmobiles, underage alcohol use in any off-road vehicle or boat will now result in Underage Drinking & Driving Charges for underage drivers. What qualifies as an off-road vehicle? Basically, it encompasses any vehicle that can travel on or off natural or paved surfaces that is not an ATV or snowmobile. In this way, it covers more off-road vehicles than were covered prior to Little Alan’s Law.

With Minnesota second in the United States in snowmobile owners by state, Little Alan’s Law is going have serious, life-changing implications for many individuals. For more information on how Little Alan’s Law can impact you, please contact Anderson Law Firm, LLC.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please contact attorney Kirk Anderson for an initial consultation.