Minnesota Driver Enters Plea Deal to Alcohol-Related School Bus Charge

Minnesota drivers may be aware that the legal limit alcohol level to drive a motor vehicle in the state is generally set at 0.08 percent BAC. Minnesota law also allows prosecutors to pursue charges for driving while impaired based upon the testimony of officers concerning driving conduct, observations in field sobriety tests and other testimony regarding so-called “indicia of impairment.”

But many Minnesotans may not be aware that the DWI laws allow alcohol test-type DWI charges in certain circumstances when a breath, blood or urine test shows less than 0.08 percent BAC.

Generally, underage drivers face a zero tolerance level for underage drinking and driving in Minnesota. But for adults, a recent story from Southern Minnesota highlights some special provisions relating to commercial vehicles and school buses that are covered in Minnesota’s DWI statutes.

A bus driver pled guilty September 26 to a charge of an alcohol-related school bus or Head Start bus driving offense in Dodge County. The 40-year-old bus driver had also been charged with DWI and third-degree DWI-commercial vehicle offense based upon an alleged alcohol test measuring 0.04 or more as measured within two hours of driving. The latter two counts were reportedly dismissed in the plea.

Minnesota law has a zero tolerance for alcohol for drivers of a school bus or Head Start vehicle. Authorities can pursue DWI charges against the driver of a bus based upon any physical evidence of drinking in the driver’s system. For non-bus commercial vehicles, the law sets the legal limit at 0.04 percent BAC.

In the recent Dodge County case, the man pled guilty to a gross misdemeanor school bus DWI offense. Authorities had claimed that a witness reported that the driver was driving the school bus erratically with students aboard. Authorities say that the driver was transporting kids to summer school while he had alcohol in his system.

A media report does not indicate the actual level of alcohol, but a deputy claims to have smelled alcohol on the driver’s breath during a traffic stop after the witness reported the erratic driving.

The man will serve two years probation and pay a fine on the gross misdemeanor offense under the plea bargain, according to the Rochester Post-Bulletin.

Minnesota law may set different legal limits for CDL holders and bus drivers under the DWI statutes. But it is important to note that commercial vehicle drivers have the right to defend against the charges in court. The constitutional rights to the presumption of innocence, the right to be represented by a criminal defense lawyer, and many more rights are not lowered by virtue of the existence of the CDL license.

Source: Rochester-Post Bulletin, “Probation for Stewartville man in school bus DWI arrest,” Kay Fate, Oct. 3, 2012

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

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