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New DWI law goes into effect

A new law that went into effect Wednesday, Aug. 1 means people convicted of driving while intoxicated — regardless of the vehicle they're driving — will lose their driver's license and be prohibited from operating motor vehicles.

According to a July 31 press release from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, this includes all-terrain vehicles, motorboats and snowmobiles.

The state Legislature passed the law following the death of 8-year-old Alan Geisenkoetter Jr. Geisenkoetter died last January after being struck by a snowmobile driven by a man whose driver's license was revoked after multiple DWI offenses.

Before the law change, people convicted of DWI in a highway-licensed vehicle still could legally operate ATVs, motorboats and snowmobiles. The changes apply to violations that occur on or after Aug. 1.

"We have zero tolerance for people who endanger themselves and other people by operating a motor vehicle or recreational vehicle while they're intoxicated," said Col. Rodmen Smith, director of the Minnesota DNR Enforcement Division. "This new law should send the message that drinking and driving — no matter what the vehicle — isn't acceptable and the consequences are severe."

As an example, a person convicted of DWI in a motorboat, or who refuses testing for a motorboat DWI, would have their driver's license suspended and be prohibited from operating ATVs, motorboats and snowmobiles for one year.

First-time DWI offenders operating off-road recreational vehicles or motorboats will also be subject to chemical use assessments, conditional release and plate impoundment — the same as a DWI in a highway-licensed vehicle.

The Minnesota DNR and other law enforcement agencies in the state, along with ATV and snowmobile groups, supported the law change. It passed the Legislature with bipartisan support and was signed into law in May by Gov. Mark Dayton.