Minnesota’s laws regulating driving while intoxicated (DWI) are very strict. They also vary based on the type of license held by the driver as well as the kind of vehicle they are driving. School buses are considered commercial vehicles, which require the operator to hold a commercial driver’s license. However, the laws regarding a school bus DWI are considerably different than those for other commercial vehicles.
In the state of Minnesota, drivers of typical passenger cars are considered to be over the legal limit if it is found that their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 or above. Those who are driving commercial vehicles do not have as much leeway. Commercial drivers are considered legally intoxicated when their BAC is 0.04 or higher.
Furthermore, Minnesota imposes a strict zero tolerance policy for driving drunk while operating a school bus. In other words, it is illegal for a school bus driver to have any alcohol in his or her system. A driver found to have been drinking any amount prior to operating the bus could be arrested and charged with a DWI. Not even a quick sip of beer is allowed. A school bus driver with a BAC of anything above a 0.00 faces a criminal offense under Minnesota law.
Likewise, penalties for school bus drivers convicted of a DWI are more severe than penalties for passenger and other commercial drivers, although the outcome is still largely dependent on the particular circumstances of the case.
In the event of the presence of a child younger than 16 years old on the bus, or if the driver has had a previous DWI conviction within the past ten years, he or she will be charged with a gross misdemeanor. Punishment for this charge could be up to a year in jail and a fine not exceeding $3,000. Most other situations will see the bus driver being charged with a misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to 90 days in prison and a $1,000 fine. A general rule of thumb is that if the bus is empty, the punishment is less severe. When there are children present in the vehicle, penalties will be more harsh.
Besides the potential prison term, a bus driver convicted of a DWI faces the possibility of losing his ability to operate the vehicle. He could lose his commercial driver’s license and not be allowed to operate a commercial vehicle for up to five years. Essentially, the driver would lose his job. Once the revocation period has passed, the driver can then reapply for a commercial license. However, even if he is able to acquire a new license, there is no guarantee the will be re-hired as a school bus driver. It is common for schools to pass on an applicant if his driving record is not clean, largely for safety reasons.
Many bus drivers who find themselves facing a DWI conviction wonder whether they will also lose their regular driver’s license. In many cases, that is not likely to happen. Assuming the bus driver’s BAC was under 0.08 at the time of the arrest, he would most likely be able to keep his regular license. If his BAC was at 0.08 or over, penalties regarding a regular DWI will then be enforced – in which case, the driver may very well have his regular license revoked or suspended.
A school bus DWI conviction is a serious charge with potentially stiff penalties. If you find yourself in this position, please consider contacting us to schedule an initial consultation with one of our skilled criminal defense attorneys. We will review your case and work with you to reach the best possible outcome.