Vanessa’s Law

In Minnesota, teen drivers have restrictions placed on them that adult drivers do not. Teen drivers also receive harsher penalties for violating the law than do drivers over the age of 18. One such example is known as Vanessa’s Law.

Vanessa’s Law was passed by the Minnesota State Legislature in 2004. Vanessa’s Law relates to drivers, with or without a license, under the age of 21 who commit an alcohol or controlled substance crash-related offense. These offenses include, but are not limited to, DWI and underage drinking and driving, and leaving the scene of an accident.

Vanessa’s Law states:

  • An unlicensed driver under the age of 18 who receives a crash-related traffic violation may not receive a driver’s license, including an instruction permit or provisional license, until the driver turns 18.
  • An unlicensed driver who receives an alcohol or controlled substance violation may not receive a driver’s license, including an instruction permit or provisional license, until the driver turns 18. “Alcohol and controlled substance violation” includes a DWI, an implied consent violation, an underage drinking and driving violation (i.e. an alcohol content over .00 while driver is under the age of 21), and even an open bottle violation.
  • Yes, if you are an unlicensed driver under the age of 18 and there is an open container of alcohol in your vehicle, you can lose the opportunity to receive a driver’s license until you turn 18, even if your alcohol content is .00.
  • A driver with a provisional license who receives an alcohol or controlled substance revocation of the driver’s license or a crash-related traffic violation loses the provisional license until he or she turns 18.
  • Any driver under 21 convicted of an underage drinking and driving offense loses his or her license for at least 30 days, with no limited license or work permit available during that 30-day driver’s license suspension period.

A teen driver whose license is revoked under Vanessa’s Law must undergo a number of steps to regain a license. The individual must:

  • Serve the withdrawal period and comply with any requirements on the withdrawal notice given.
  • Pass the entire written knowledge test, if unlicensed, or the DWI knowledge test, if holding a provisional license at the time of the incident that led to the revocation.
  • If unlicensed, make an application for a new driver’s license and pay all appropriate fees. The individual must then hold an instruction permit for six months before taking a road test. If the individual is over the age of 19, he or she only needs to hold the instruction permit for three months before taking the road test.
  • If the individual held a provisional license at the time of the incident leading to revocation, the individual must first pay a $680 reinstatement fee. Then he or she must complete a 30-hour classroom driver’s education course. At this point, the individual may apply for an instruction permit, which is given in addition to the driver’s license. Once reinstated, the instruction permit is held for three months. During this three-month period when the instruction permit is held, the individual must complete six hours of behind-the-wheel driver education programs.

Just because you have been charged with a crime, and the state is attempting to penalize you under Vanessa’s Law, does not mean you are out of options. You may have legitimate defenses. An aggressive, experienced criminal defense attorney like Max A. Keller can use these defenses and fight to get your driver’s license back and keep both your driving record and criminal record clean. Contact Max A. Keller today in order to discuss your case.

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-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. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Involve a criminal appeal attorney soon after you learn the prosecution is appealing your sentence. Your attorney will walk you through the involving and confusing sentencing guidelines. An attorney's involvement will also help you develop a defense strategy for the appeal.