Criminal Vehicular Operation CVO Charges in Buffalo, Wright County, MN

In most states, criminal authorities consider car wrecks to be civil matters between insurance companies. Peace officers rarely file criminal charges in these situations, even if the collision is fatal.

But most states do not have a law like Section 609.2113 of the Minnesota Statutes. The Criminal Vehicular Operation law is a felony. These penalties apply if the defendant causes substantial bodily harm while driving in a particular way.

This statute is quite complex, and there are lots of moving parts. So, if you face CVO charges in Wright County, only a highly experienced Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer should represent you in court. Otherwise, you may be looking at extended prison time for something that was essentially a mistake.

CVO’s Basic Elements

To receive a Criminal Vehicular Operation charge in Buffalo, Minnesota, a person must cause an injury (not death) while driving “in a grossly negligent manner.” In general, negligence means someone acts without care for other people’s safety.

Usually, gross negligence applies to driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances. But that’s not always the case. Here are two other situations that fall under gross negligence:

  1. After causing an accident (due to negligence or not), the driver flees the scene.
  2. A driver who has received a ticket for vehicle defects doesn’t fix the problem and, knowing the risk, drives anyway, ultimately causing an accident.

Much like the DUI law, the CVO law contains no mental state. It is a crime to drive under the influence of a substance. It does not matter if the defendant unintentionally, or even unknowingly, drove in this condition. The different kinds of CVO may involve a mental state, as outlined below. But in general, Wright County prosecutors must simply prove the basic elements.

The only time mental state does matter is if someone used a substance they did not know and had no reason to believe was intoxicating.

Criminal Vehicular Operation is always a felony. But the exact range of punishment depends on the amount of harm the defendant caused, as follows:

  • Great Bodily Harm: GBH CVO is a five-year felony. Typically, great bodily harm means that the car crash victim received injury treatment at a hospital and stayed at least one night. Additionally, there must be no evidence of intent to harm the alleged victim. Different statutes cover vehicular assault and vehicular manslaughter. A GBH CVO is an automatic felony.
  • Serious Bodily Harm: SBH CVO, which is a three-year felony, is usually a treated-and-released offense. SBH, which may be the most common type of Criminal Vehicular Operation, usually includes things like broken bones. This crime is a felony.
  • Bodily Harm: If the vehicle collision victim received some treatment at the scene, such as a bandage or perhaps some field stitches, the maximum punishment is one year in prison. This is the only CVO charge that’s a misdemeanor.

The different levels often create proof problems. Assume Frank hits Jesse in an intersection and Jesse goes to a nearby emergency room. After waiting for about an hour, he leaves without receiving treatment. If prosecutors file GBH or even SBH charges, a Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer may be able to get the case thrown out due to lack of evidence. There may be no medical bills to support the charges.

CVO vs. Vehicular Homicide in Minnesota

Vehicular homicide is a charge related to CVO in Minnesota. Courts use this charge instead of CVO if the accident results in death rather than just injury.

Vehicular homicide is an extremely serious crime in Buffalo and a felony. A conviction could result in $20,000 in fines, up to 10 years in prison, or both. Further, vehicular homicide offenders risk forfeiting their driver’s licenses, vehicles, and gun rights.

It’s important to note that vehicular homicide cases can become even more serious if the accident results in the death of a pregnant person. Fatally injuring an unborn child is an additional felony charge in Minnesota.

Even if a court convicts you of injuring an unborn child, it’s a felony. You’ll risk paying up to $20,000 in fines and/or spending up to five years in prison. The prison sentence increases to up to 10 years in the case of vehicular homicide.

Minnesota Criminal Vehicular Operation Penalties

Has a Minnesota court recently charged you with CVO? You need to hire a Buffalo, MN criminal defense lawyer ASAP. If you choose instead to represent yourself, you risk the following penalties of a CVO conviction.

Jail / Prison Time

All CVO convictions come with the potential of jail time. But exactly how long do you go to jail for vehicular assault? Here are the facts:

Even though CVOs that cause bodily harm (BH) are only a misdemeanors, you could still spend a maximum of one year in jail. The sentence only increases as the injuries to the other party get more severe.

As we’ve mentioned, a Substantial Bodily Harm (SBH) CVO conviction is a felony. As such, a conviction means prison, not jail time. SBH CVO felons must serve up to three years in prison.

Great Bodily Harm (GBH) CVOs are also felony convictions that bring on lengthy prison sentences of up to five years in prison.

Fines in MN

Jail and/or prison time aren’t the only penalties CVO offenders have to worry about. BH CVOs come with fines of up to $3,000. Offenders must pay these fines on top of court and attorney fees and bail.

SBH and GBH CVOs have even higher fines. Both SBH and GBH CVO convictions come with a fine of up to $10,000.

Background Checks in MN

Did you know that felonies must remain on your criminal record in Minnesota for at least five years? You can’t even begin the expungement process until this period is up.

The same thing is true of misdemeanors, though you only have to wait two years before you can hire a Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer to expunge it.

If you apply for a job before the waiting period is up, potential employers will see your conviction. Felony convictions, in particular, may hamper your ability to find work and look like someone an employer wants to hire.

Additionally, felonies found during background checks can also affect your ability to get a loan. The lender may worry that felons may commit future crimes, face jail time, or get slapped with hefty fines, all of which can prevent the borrower from making good on his or her loan.

Other Consequences

In Minnesota, a felony conviction can affect other aspects of your life, too. For example, a court could revoke your gun and/or voting rights if you have a CVO felony.

Felonies also affect the ability to find housing. Many landlords won’t accept applications from convicted felons, leaving these offenders with limited housing options.

You don’t want to face the consequences of a CVO conviction in Minnesota. That’s why you need a CVO criminal defense attorney to fight for your rights.

If you already have a CVO conviction on your record, a CVO lawyer can also help you navigate the expungement process in Buffalo, MN.

How Buffalo, MN Criminal Lawyers Approach the Major Kinds of CVO

Negligent operation while under the influence of a substance may be the most common type of CVO charge. These key terms deserve some close attention.

Negligence is a civil law term that denotes a lack of care or, more likely, a violation of a safety statute, like speeding or making an illegal lane change. But negligence alone is not enough. The defendant must also cause a crash while negligent. And, that crash must cause at least bodily harm.

Since negligence is a civil term, civil car crash defenses, such as contributory negligence, may be available. In criminal court, a Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer need not “prove” the defense. Creating a reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s guilt is enough.

The illicit substance could be alcohol and/or a controlled substance. 609.2113 states that the defendant is guilty if s/he was “under the influence” of a substance. That’s a lower standard than intoxicated. Essentially, if the defendant had one drink or one pill, the defendant was probably under the influence of the substance.

This subdivision has some variations. It is a felony to negligently cause a serious crash if the defendant’s BAC alcohol level was at least .08 within two hours of the collision. This provision gives law enforcement some added leeway. And, it is also a felony to negligently cause a serious crash while under the influence of any Schedule I or Schedule II drug. If the defendant had a valid prescription, the defendant may be not guilty as a matter of law.

Section 609.2113 also applies to gross negligence serious crashes. The statute does not define gross negligence, but generally, this term is synonymous with reckless driving. If the defendant committed two or more traffic violations and caused a crash (e.g. speeding while traveling on the wrong side of the road), the defendant was probably grossly negligent.

Leaving the scene of a serious crash is probably the third major type of CVO. This subdivision is not like some other hit-and-run laws. This prohibition only applies if the defendant caused the crash and left the scene. Additionally, “cause” is a civil law term which may be subject to contributory negligence and some other car crash defenses.

Reach Out to a Dedicated Criminal Defense Lawyer in Wright County, MN

Criminal Vehicular Operation (CVO) occurs in Minnesota when a grossly negligent driver gets into a wreck and injures the other party. There are three types of CVO charges, two of which are felonies. Regardless of which CVO charge you receive, a conviction may result in jail or prison time, fines, and more.

Criminal Vehicular Operation is a serious felony which may be difficult to prove in court. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

Originally published on October 24, 2019 and updated October 12, 2021.

Differences Between Probation and Deferred Adjudication in Buffalo, MN

In all but the most serious offenses, such as murder, almost everyone receives probation, unless they have lengthy criminal records. That’s especially true if there is any hope whatsoever that the defendant might be rehabilitated.

For the most part, incarceration is entirely punitive. That’s not true in all cases. A few inmates are “scared straight,” and a few others have religious experiences or acquire necessary life skills, like a GED. But the prison recidivism rate is over 80 percent. So, there is obviously not much rehabilitation behind bars. On a related note, prison is much more expensive than probation and also more of a hot-button political issue. These facts are not lost on Minnesota lawmakers.

Typically, either regular probation or deferred adjudication may be available. A Buffalo, MN felony lawyer will carefully review the pros and cons of each option. Nothing can substitute for a face-to-face consultation and complete representation, but a brief outline of the similarities and differences is below.

What Are Probation and Deferred Adjudication in Minnesota?

Probation and deferred adjudication are two sentencing options in Buffalo, Minnesota. These outcomes look highly similar at first glance.

 

We’ll talk about the differences between these two punishments next. But first, let’s discuss what probation and deferred adjudication are, exactly, in Buffalo, MN.

Probation

Probation is typically an alternative to jail or prison time in Minnesota. After a court convicts an offender of a crime, a Buffalo criminal defense lawyer can request probation instead of jail time. Importantly, probation doesn’t mean the offense gets wiped off the offender’s record.

During probation, the offender will also have to fulfill certain court-ordered conditions of probation. The exact conditions a court will order varies based on the nature and severity of the crime.For example, a drug crime offense might earn someone monthly drug testing and narcotics awareness courses.

Sometimes, an offender might only receive probation to the court. This usually applies to cases where the offender’s only condition is that he or she not commit another crime while on probation.

Offenders with more probation conditions than abiding by the law alone may instead have to answer to a correctional officer. Probational correction officers are also known as probation officers in Minnesota.

The exact length of the probationary period also varies by crime. In general, offenders must be on probation for anywhere from one to six years. After the offender completes probation, the crime will stay on his or her record unless expunged.

Deferred Adjudication

In Minnesota, deferred adjudication is also known as deferred probation or a “stay of adjudication.” Though deferred adjudication requires an affirmative defense (i.e., you must admit a guilty plea), this outcome is highly desirable in criminal cases.

Why? Because deferred adjudication means that the offender doesn’t receive a conviction. Offenders who receive stays of adjudication can get their charges removed from their records.

However, these individuals must first meet the terms of the stay. What are “terms of the stay”? The exact terms of a stay of adjudication vary by crime and individual.

Terms of a stay commonly include statements requiring the offender to stay crime-free for at least a year. Other terms might enforce mandatory community service, fines, and certain courses (e.g., drug and alcohol awareness, self-improvement classes, etc.).

As long as the offender fully completes the stay of adjudication’s terms, the court will expunge the charge from his or her record.

If the offender doesn’t complete the terms of the stay of adjudication, the offense will remain on his or her record until it’s eligible for expungement. It’s also up to the judge whether the offender must also serve jail time and/or pay fines.

Which Crimes Qualify for Probation and Deferred Adjudication?

Were you recently charged with a crime in Buffalo? A Minnesota criminal defense lawyer can help you decide whether probation or deferred adjudication is right for you.

We’ve compiled the top crimes that do and don’t qualify for these sentencing options below to give you a head start.

Which Crimes Can Receive Deferred Adjudication in Buffalo, MN?

Section 152.18 of the Minnesota Statutes mandates deferred adjudication for some first-time drug charges. This includes third-, fourth-, and fifth-degree drug possession crimes. Deferred adjudication is also applicable to:

  • Schedule V drug possession
  • Small amounts of marijuana possession
  • Synthetic cannabinoid possession and/or sale

In order to qualify for deferred adjudication, the crime must be a first offense. The offender must also not have any prior stays of adjudication related to a drug offense.

Which Crimes Can Receive Probation in Buffalo, MN?

Minnesota courts typically prefer probation over jail time. This is because probation costs less than prison. And some studies show that probation may actually reverse mass incarceration rates, cutting costs even further.

As such, offenders can receive probation for almost any crime in Minnesota. This includes misdemeanor crimes, gross misdemeanors, and even felonies. Following is a list of crimes for which probation is a sentencing option:

  • Misdemeanor crimes, including DWIs, Indecent Exposure charges, and Domestic Assault.
  • Gross Misdemeanors, including Criminal Vehicular Operation (CVO) and fifth-degree sex crimes
  • Felonies, including felony-level CVO

Felony offenders can receive a max of four years probation. The only exception is felony-level CVO, which incurs a six-year maximum probation sentence.

Most gross misdemeanor crimes can earn offenders up to two years of probation. However, the gross misdemeanor crimes we listed above incur up to six years maximum probation.

Excepting the misdemeanor crimes we listed above, offenders with misdemeanors can earn up to one year of probation. Petty misdemeanors aren’t eligible for jail time and, thus, ineligible for probation.

Similarities Between Regular and Deferred Probation in Wright County

As far as the defendant is concerned, regular probation and deferred adjudication are exactly the same. After appearing before a judge and pleading guilty or no contest, the defendant meets with a probation officer who reviews the conditions of probation. Some of these conditions include:

  • Commit No Other Offenses: About 75 percent of all motions to revoke probation are based on subsequent offenses. Sometimes, prosecutors jump the gun and file motions to revoke immediately after arrest. A good Buffalo, MN felony lawyer can often at least delay revocation proceedings in these situations.
  • Failure to Report: This offense is probably the second most common infraction. Normally, probationers must report monthly and produce certain documents, such as school transcripts or paystubs, to show they are on the straight and narrow. Typically, prosecutors do not file revocation motions unless the defendant misses multiple meetings without explanation.
  • Monetary Delinquency: Probationers must pay fines and court costs. They must also pay monthly supervision fees. If the motion alleges no other violation, a Buffalo, MN felony lawyer may be able to get the case thrown out on constitutional grounds. Debtors’ prisons are illegal in the United States.
  • Failure to Meet Program Requirements: Probationers must also complete community service requirements, attend self-improvement classes, and fulfill other such requirements. If prosecutors file motions to revoke on these grounds, and it is rare to do so, they usually withdraw them if the defendant complies immediately.

Most probation conditions also include a catch-all provision, such as avoiding disreputable activities and places. This provision gives probation officers an excuse to require random drug tests and force the probationer to submit to warrantless searches.

A motion for early discharge from regular or deferred probation may be an option, in some cases. If the judge grants the motion, defendants are immediately released from all requirements.

Some Key Differences

Regular probation goes on a defendant’s permanent record as a conviction, just as if the defendant received a jail or prison sentence. If the defendant violates probation, any jail or prison sentence is limited to the figure the prosecutor and Buffalo, MN felony lawyer worked out in a plea agreement.

Deferred disposition is different on both these points. If the defendant successfully completes deferred probation, the judge dismisses the case. The arrest record remains, but there is no conviction record. So, if a job or college application requires disclosure of any prior criminal convictions, the applicant can write “none.”

Now for the downside. If the defendant violates probation in any way, including trivial violations, and a Buffalo, MN felony lawyer cannot defeat the motion, the judge may sentence the defendant to anything up to the maximum incarceration period under the law.

So, deferred adjudication is a pretty significant risk. But, it’s also a risk worth taking, at least in many cases.

How a Buffalo, MN Felony Lawyer Arranges for Deferred Adjudication

Wright County prosecutors may offer deferred adjudication in nonviolent misdemeanors, but probably not in other cases. However, that does not mean deferred is unavailable.

Many times, Buffalo, MN felony lawyers leverage defenses during the plea bargaining process, such as lack of a search warrant, to obtain better deals, like deferred adjudication. In other cases, the prosecutor may have proof problems. For example, a key witness may be unavailable. A prosecutor might offer deferred adjudication to avoid the risk of a trial.

If all else fails, an open plea may be an option for a Buffalo, MN felony lawyer. Defendants literally throw themselves on the mercy of the court. During open pleas, the judge may hear from character and other witnesses.

Contact a Dedicated Minnesota Defense Lawyer

If you want to avoid serving jail time in Minnesota, probation is the best sentencing option for you. Better yet, deferred adjudication can result in the expungement of your conviction altogether. Working with a criminal defense attorney in Minnesota can help you learn which of these options is best for your case.

Are you wondering whether probation or deferred adjudication will work for your criminal case? Most defendants have several sentencing options, even if they plead guilty. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN felony lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

Originally published on September 17, 2019 and updated on October 7, 2021.

A Hutchinson Criminal Lawyer Looks at the Consent Defense

Of all the defenses in a sex crimes prosecution, such as lack of evidence and entrapment, consent may be the most potent and most dangerous one.

Consent is a potent defense because, if established, it completely unravels most sex crimes cases. If a McLeod County jury accepts the consent defense, it will return a not-guilty verdict. During pretrial negotiations, if it looks like the consent defense may be viable, prosecutors may offer a fire sale-type plea deal.

Consent is also a dangerous defense. During the trial, the defendant must typically testify. So, the prosecutor has a chance to cross-examine the defendant. And, pretty much anything goes in these exchanges. Moreover, if the defense does not resonate with the jury, some jurors may react very harshly against the defendant.

There is a wildcard here. On a 66-0 vote, the Minnesota State Senate recently joined the House and closed the marital exception loophole in the sexual assault law. The change must now go to a conference committee to iron out differences between the House and Senate versions. And, no one is sure what the final version will look like.

So, now more than ever, if the consent defense may be an option in your case, you need a highly-skilled Hutchinson criminal lawyer to break things down for the jury.

What Consent Is

According to Section 609.341, consent is “words or overt actions by a person indicating a freely given present agreement to perform a particular sexual act with the actor.” To many McLeod County jurors, and many Hutchinson criminal lawyers, this definition is a bit out-of-step with modern human relations. Most people do not sign waivers before participating in sexual activities. So, “consent” is very rarely black and white.

But note that the statute includes “overt actions.” That could be something like going to the defendant’s room. In this instance, if another person saw the alleged victim and defendant leave together, the defendant may not have to testify. That’s usually a big plus for Hutchinson criminal lawyers. Of course, the alleged victim could always say that s/he changed her mind later and withdrew consent. But many jurors may have a hard time buying that story.

The consent can be limited. That’s why public flirting very rarely constitutes consent to perform a sexual act. These are two very different things.

What Consent Is Not

As the Legislature just made even more clear, a prior sexual relationship does not mean that the alleged victim consented this time. Consent is not an automatic payment arrangement. Just because you give consent once, you do not agree to future encounters.

Significantly, the statute only says that a prior sexual relationship is inconclusive. It does not say it’s irrelevant. If the alleged victim frequently and recently consented to sexual contact, that history puts circumstantial evidence of consent into a new light. A Hutchinson criminal lawyer may even be able to delve into past consent issues in the alleged victim’s background. This approach may be a way to bypass Minnesota’s rape shield law, at least in part.

The Rape Shield Law means criminal attorneys can’t submit the victim’s prior sexual conduct to the court. The only exception to this law is if a judge deems the victim’s prior record as substantial evidence in the case (i.e., that it has probative value).

Also according to the statute, consent is more than failure to resist. That’s assent and not consent. These are two different things. But once again, assent may be relevant. If the alleged victim assented and there is other circumstantial evidence, like intense flirting, a Hutchinson criminal lawyer may be able to employ a consent defense.

Alcohol and Consent

Many, if not most, of these incidents involve alcohol. Under the law, if the alleged victim was “incapacitated” or “helpless,” consent is impossible as a matter of law.

Words like “incapacitated” imply a very high BAC level of perhaps .22 or higher. As a very rough rule of thumb, .08 is legally drunk, .16 is stumbling drunk, .22 is passed-out drunk, and .28 is comatose, or perhaps even dead, due to alcohol poisoning.

So, if the alleged victim had two or three drinks, consent is still very possible. After four or five drinks, it’s a little harder to establish. Certain drugs may have a similar effect, especially something like Zolpidem (Ambien), Rohypnol (Ruffies), and other date rape drugs.

On a related note, physical restraint or natural unconsciousness (asleep) also makes consent impossible. Certain people cannot consent as a matter of law. This list includes children and people in certain professional relationships (e.g.psychiatrists and patients).

When Can a Criminal Lawyer Use the Consent Defense in Minnesota?

Hutchinson criminal lawyers typically use the consent defense in criminal sexual conduct crimes. In Minnesota, sex crimes fall into one of the following categories:

  • Fifth-degree sex crimes, which include sexual contact and crude conduct
  • Fought-degree sex crimes, which include sexual contact and statutory rape against victims of certain ages
  • Third-degree sex crimes, which include penetration crimes and statutory rape against victims of certain ages
  • Second-degree sex crimes, which include sexual contact crimes and aggravated statutory rape
  • First-degree sex crimes, which include penetration crimes and sex crimes committed against a person aged 13 or younger

In all but a few cases, a sex crimes defense attorney can apply the consent defense. We’ll talk about which cases are exceptions to this rule later. But, first, we’re discussing why you don’t want to receive a sex crime conviction in Minnesota. 

Sex Crime Penalties in Hutchison, MN

Being convicted of one or more of sex crimes in Minnesota comes with serious penalties.

A fifth-degree sex crime can earn offenders a gross misdemeanor, up to 1 year in jail, and/or a $3,000 fine. Sentencing increases to five years in jail and/or a $10,000 fine for repeat fifth-degree sex crimes.

Fourth-degree sex crimes generally earn offenders up to 10 years in prison, up to a $20,000 fine, or both. Third-degree sex crimes incur up to 15 years in prison and/or a $30,000 fine.

In Minnesota, second- and first-degree criminal sexual conduct convictions come with minimum sentencing guidelines.

For a second-degree conviction, the offender must serve at least 90 months or up to 25 years in prison and/or pay up to a $35,000 fine. First-degree convictions come with 144-month minimum sentences. But offenders could spend up to 30 years in prison, pay a $40,000 fine, or both.

In addition to these punishments, Minnesota sex criminals must submit their DNA to the court. Predatory Offender Registration (POR) and Community Notification of sex offender status are also requirements that apply in some cases.

You don’t want to be convicted of a sex crime in Minnesota. That’s why you need an experienced Hutchison criminal lawyer to help you understand whether the consent defense applies to your case.

When Can’t a Hutchison Criminal Lawyer Use the Consent Defense?

Consent is a defense in all but a few criminal sexual conduct cases. In which cases is the consent defense not allowed? We’re talking about four of them next.

Sex Crimes Against Minors

The consent defense is not allowed in cases where an offender committed a sex crime against a minor. This includes some instances of statutory rape as long as the offender is a certain number of months older than the victim.

The age of consent in Minnesota is 16. Any sex crime committed against a person aged younger than 16 cannot use the consent defense in court.

Note that the “mistaken age” defense also isn’t available for sex crimes against minors. The only exception to this rule is in some circumstances of statutory rape, especially when the offender and the minor are close in age.

Position of Authority Sex Crimes

Regardless of the age of the victim, if a person in a position of authority commits a sex crime against someone younger than him or herself, consent is not a defense. However, there must be a certain number of years separating the age of the offender and the victim.

People in positions of authority typically include parents, teachers, and coaches.

Significant Relationship Sex Crimes

Consent isn’t a defense when a person who holds a significant relationship with a minor commits a sex offense against that minor. This includes sexual criminal conduct perpetrated by parents or guardians, relatives, and other adults who cohabitate with the minor.

There used to be an exception here if the offender was married to the minor and committed a sex crime. However, since Minnesota closed the marital rape loophole, the consent defense isn’t available in these cases anymore.

Employment Sex Crimes

Regardless of the victim’s age, professionals employed in certain roles cannot use the consent defense against criminal sexual conduct charges. These employees include:

  • Psychotherapists
  • Clergy members
  • Correctional officers
  • Masseuses

Any sex crime offenders partaking in the above roles cannot use the consent defense when a court brings charges against them.

Rely on a Diligent Attorney

Sex crimes are no joke in Minnesota. You could risk one to 30 years in jails and thousands of dollars in fines. Luckily, a sex crimes defense attorney can help reduce or even eliminate your charges using the consent defense.

Have you recently received a sex crime charge in Minnesota and think the consent defense applies to your case? Consent is a very high risk/reward defense in sexual assault prosecutions. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson criminal lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in McLeod County and nearby jurisdictions.

Originally published on May 18, 2019 and updated on October 5, 2021.

A Buffalo, MN Auto Accident Lawyer Looks at Some Common Traffic Tickets

Frequently, emergency responders issue traffic tickets at accident scenes to help insurance companies determine fault. But in many cases, these citations affect liability for damages as well. In fact, because of the negligence per se doctrine, they may conclusively determine liability.

The negligence per se doctrine applies if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) violated a safety law and that violation substantially caused injury. This doctrine saves time during the evidence collection process. As a result, it’s easier for Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyers to obtain fair compensation for accident victims.

If you were recently involved in a car accident due to one of the following offenses, you need to call a Buffalo car accident lawyer ASAP.

Consequences of Speeding in Buffalo and Minnesota

Excessive velocity is a factor in about a third of the fatal car crashes in Minnesota. That’s because speed affects the risk of a collision and the force in a collision.

Speed multiples stopping distance. At 30mph, most cars travel about six car lengths between the moment a driver sees a hazard and the moment the car safely stops. At 60mph, stopping distance multiplies to about eighteen car lengths. Other factors, such as vehicle weight and environmental conditions, often increase stopping distance.

Velocity also multiplies the force in a collision between two objects. In this context, speed transforms property damage fender-bender crashes into serious injury or fatal collisions.

In Minnesota, the posted speed limits are presumptively reasonable speeds. So, officers could issue speeding tickets even if the driver was not exceeding the posted limit, if the officer felt the driver was going too fast for the conditions. But officers rarely hand out such tickets. So, in these cases, Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyers normally rely on the ordinary negligence doctrine. Essentially, negligence is a lack of reasonable care.

Failure to Signal/Illegal Lane Change in Minnesota

These citations are especially common in serious motorcycle crash claims. Today’s cars are so solid that sideswipe collisions don’t often cause serious collisions, unless victims lose control of their vehicles. But motorcycle riders have no seatbelts, airbags, steel cocoons, or other things to protect them in these cases. They are completely exposed to danger.

Visibility is also a factor in these situations. Frequently, tortfeasors simply do not see motorcycle riders. But that’s no excuse for negligence, and certainly no defense to a negligence per se claim.

Crossing the Median

These citations illustrate the difference between fault at the scene and liability for damages. If a driver is ticketed for crossing the median, that driver is almost always faulted for the crash. But legal responsibility might be different, because of the last clear chance rule.

All drivers have a duty of reasonable care, regardless of what another driver does. This duty includes a responsibility to avoid accidents when possible. So, if Driver A saw Driver B cross the center line and Driver A did nothing to stop the wreck, Driver A might be legally responsible for the crash.

There’s a big difference between the last clear chance and any possible chance. Frequently, collisions happen so fast that there is no way to avoid them. Also, if the tortfeasor was driving erratically at the time, it’s very difficult to get out of the way.

Failure to Yield to Pedestrians in Buffalo, MN

Much like motorcyclists, pedestrians have no protection from onrushing cars. The moment they step into the street, they are completely exposed to danger.

Minnesota law is a bit vague when it comes to pedestrian right-of-way. If the pedestrian was in the crosswalk and crossing with the light, the pedestrian clearly had the right-of-way. Other situations, like crossing against the light in the crosswalk, are more uncertain.

In terms of legal liability, the last clear chance rule applies in pedestrian cases. If a driver sees a pedestrian in the road, the driver has a duty to avoid a crash, even if the driver has the right-of-way.

Sudden emergency, a related doctrine, sometimes comes up in pedestrian crashes as well. Frequently, insurance company lawyers argue that a pedestrian victim “darted out into traffic.” This argument sets up the sudden emergency defense. This doctrine excuses negligent conduct if the driver reasonably reacted to a sudden emergency.

But a jaywalking pedestrian is usually not a “sudden emergency.” This label only applies to lightning strikes, tire blowouts, and other completely unexpected situations.

School Bus Stop Arm Violations in MN

These citations are often perfect storm citations. Drivers who ignore school bus stop arms are frequently speeding. Children disembarking from school busses are vulnerable, and since they often cross in front of the stopped bus, they are hard to see.

What’s At Risk With These Common Traffic Tickets?

We’ve already mentioned how Minnesota courts often determine car accident fault based on traffic citations issued on the scene. But being at fault for the accident, injuries to the other driver, and property damage aren’t the only consequences the other driver has to worry about.

When someone receives a traffic ticket in Buffalo, MN, they’ll also have to pay a fine. The exact fines for traffic tickets vary by county and by violation.

Speeding Ticket Fines in Buffalo, MN

The fines for Minnesota speeding tickets vary based on how many miles per hour the driver was going over the speed limit. Fines break down as the following:

  • 1–10 mph over the speed limit: $125 fine
  • 11–14 mph over the speed limit: $135 fine
  • 15–19 mph over the speed limit: $145 fine
  • 20–25 mph over the speed limit: $225 fine
  • 26–30 mph over the speed limit: $285 fine

If a law enforcement officer catches a driver going 31 mph or more over the speed limit, the fine increases to $385.

Failure to Signal/Illegal Lane Change Fines

Failure to signal and illegal lane change (i.e., “improper lane use” in Minnesota) are separate crimes. As such, they can incur two different fines.

Failing to signal while driving can incur a $125 fine. Meanwhile, improper lane use, which might include failure to signal, incurs a higher penalty. Offenders have to pay $135 for this type of traffic violation.

Crossing the Median Fines

The Minnesota Statutes don’t have a specific traffic fine for crossing the median. This violation is typically charged under another type of driving offense. The discretion is largely left up to the charging officer.

For example, an officer could charge someone with inattentive driving, which caused that driver to cross into the median. This type of traffic violation comes with a $125 fine.

Another way to charge drivers with crossing the median is with a “failure to obey traffic control devices” citation. After all, median lines are tools for traffic control. Receiving a charge for this violation typically incurs a $135 fine.

Failure to Yield to Pedestrians Fines in Minnesota

The fines for failure to yield right of way and failure to yield to pedestrians are a world apart. The former incurs a mere $135 fine. But failing to yield to pedestrians is a much more severe crime in Minnesota.

The first time someone fails to yield to pedestrians in Minnesota, he or she will receive a misdemeanor. Conviction penalties include up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $700.

A second or more violation becomes a gross misdemeanor. Traffic violators convicted of subsequent failure to yield to pedestrian citations must pay up to $3000 in fines, spend up to one year in prison, or both.

School Bus Stop Arm Violation Fines

The House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee recently approved HF2172, which intends to change how law enforcement charges school bus stop arm violations in Minnesota.

Currently, drivers who fail to stop behind school busses can incur a misdemeanor. If convicted, the driver faces a $500 fine.

Unfortunately, officers can’t always identify the driver in these situations. When that happens, they will cite the violation to the owner of the vehicle. Today, the fine for vehicle owners is $100.

HF2172 seeks to increase the fine to the vehicle owner. The auto owner would be faced with a misdemeanor and an increased $300 fine.

Minnesota intends to apply the majority of funds received through these fines to equip school busses with cameras. That way, officers can more easily catch and charge the actual school bus stop arm violation offenders.

Do You Need a Buffalo Car Accident Lawyer in Minnesota?

If you were injured in a car accident caused by one of the above traffic violations, you need to call a Buffalo personal injury lawyer ASAP.

Your attorney can help you understand how much to expect from a car accident settlement, whether you want to file suit against your insurance company or the other driver.

Insurance companies love to low-ball their settlement offers. But a seasoned Buffalo car accident attorney knows how to fight for the damages you deserve. Your lawyer can help you negotiate a better settlement or, when that doesn’t work, fight for your rights in court.

In Minnesota, insurance companies are only required to pay up to $20,000 of medical care for a car wreck injury. This is called personal injury protection (PIP). But, if that doesn’t suffice to cover your medical expenses, your attorney can file a lawsuit against the negligent driver and recover damages.

Reaching Out to Personal Injury Lawyers in Buffalo, Minnesota

Some of the top reasons for Minnesota traffic citations include speeding, failing to signal, crossing the median, failure to yield to pedestrians, and school bus stop arm violations. Receiving one of these tickets incurs fines and, sometimes, jail time, especially if the offense caused a wreck.

Were you recently injured in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence? Then you need to hire a Buffalo car accident lawyer. Traffic violations make it easier to obtain compensation in car wreck claims.

For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

Originally published on April 22, 2020 and updated October 1, 2021.

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