Category Archives: Traffic Offenses

Minnesota School Bus

Minnesota Truck Driver Charged For Failing to Yield to Bus

An Apple Valley truck driver who sped by a stopped school bus on a two-lane highway is lucky to only be facing two misdemeanor charges considering his actions nearly took the life of a sixth grade student.

Allen H. Morris, 48, was charged with failure to obey the bus’ flashing lights and a “stop arm” violation in connection with the May 30 incident.

On that day, Morris was driving his truck behind a school bus on a two-lane section of Hwy 23 between New London and Paynesville. That stretch of road has a speed limit of 55 mph, and Morris may not have been expecting the school bus to stop in an area with such a high speed limit. Regardless of whether he wasn’t paying attention, following to closely or thought the move was legal, Morris blew by the bus on the right shoulder of the road.

As you can see in the video below, sixth-grader Alexis Schwartz was mere inches away from being struck by the truck, which was traveling between 45 and 50 miles per hour as it passed.

 

 

“It just kept coming and didn’t stop, and it didn’t even stop when it passed me,” Schwartz said after the accident. “My heart was pounding awfully fast and my hands were shaking, because I was so scared to have it come up that close.”

The Minnesota State Patrol posted the dashcam video on social media platforms in hopes of identifying the driver. Although he didn’t showcase the best decision making back in May, Morris made the conscience decision to turn himself in to authorities after learning that they were looking for him.

Morris is scheduled to appear in court on September 10. The two misdemeanor charges each carry potential sentences of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, but Morris has a rather clean driving record. He only has one past driving citation on his record, which occurred back in 2007. His relatively clean record and the fact that he turned himself in will work to his advantage. I expect that he’ll have to pay a fine and complete community service or take a driving class.

In the end, I’m glad nobody was injured. School is about to start up again, so parents and drivers should start mentally preparing to see school buses back on the road. Now may be a good time to refresh your knowledge of the law by taking out Minnesota School Bus Law Quiz!

Related source: Star Tribune

Mike Vanwagner

Coon Rapids Driver Who Killed Teen Had 0.29 BAC

The Coon Rapids driver who hit and killed a Brooklyn Center teen was operating his vehicle with a blood-alcohol content of nearly four times the legal limit, prosecutors said during their opening statements Tuesday.

The case has drawn national media attention, but not because of Michael VanWagner’s abnormally high blood-alcohol or because he was driving without a valid license or insurance. Instead, people from all over the country are chiming in on the nonchalant attitude Vanwagner expressed on social media the days after the accident.

In Facebook posts that have since been taken down, VanWagner posted a photo of his totaled car with the text, “That’s the front end after I got done with her lol :)” In the comments on the photo, a friend asked what happened, and VanWagner replied, “Going into a turn lane and weird ass speed bump flew my left front driver front into a poll then flip and smashed the other side….. 252 and 83rd.” He later added, “I’m all good slept a day in the hospital then came home and did yard work lol.”

Mike VanWagner

The problem is the “weird ass speed bump” VanWagner hit was actually the rear end of a car driven by 16-year-old Jason McCarthy. According to an accident reconstruction team, VanWagner was traveling at roughly 60 mph when his car struck McCarthy’s car. Both cars were thrown into the air, and as fate would have it, McCarthy died in the accident while VanWagner walked away relatively unharmed.

Social Outrage

Although VanWagner wasn’t aware that he killed someone until a few days after the accident, he continued to share some questionable pictures in light of the events that transpired. He shared three captioned photos five days after the accident that depicted:

  • An officer asking a driver “Any drugs or alcohol?” The driver is shown saying, “No thanks, I’ve got everything.”
  • A picture of a woman driver captioned, “You call it ‘road rage,’ I call it ‘aggressively maneuvering around assholes that don’t know how to fucking drive.”
  • Two cars on the road with the caption, “If you tailgate me, I drive slower to piss you off…”

VanWagner has since made his Facebook profile private, but that hasn’t stopped folks from weighing in on other social media platforms. Some top comments from a Reddit post detailing the accident include:

  • “This is a total stranger that killed another total stranger, so this shouldn’t affect me too much. Yet, seeing the screenshot of his Facebook status and the utter disregard towards the fact that he hit and killed a teenager while driving drunk, fills me with a ridiculous amount of rage. I can’t even imagine the level of burning fury the parents must feel after hearing about this.” – Boo-Wendy-Boooo.
  • “Why would you ever brag about drunk driving? That’s like being proud of getting an STD from a one night stand. – gasstationclerk4life
  • “His Facebook isn’t going to do him any favors when he goes to trial for killing a kid.” – IamOfficial

VanWagner was officially charged with two counts Criminal Vehicular Homicide which each carry a maximum sentence of 10 years and/or a $20,000 fine, and one count of Failure to Stop for Accident to Property, which carries a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. He is currently being held without bail.

Related sources: Reddit, Star Tribune, CityPages

Drunk Family

DUI is a Family Affair for Father, Sons

Like father, like son appeared to be the motto for a Vermont family after a father and his two sons were all booked for driving under the influence on the same day.

The strange incident occurred on Saturday when police responded to a call about a single-vehicle crash. The driver, 22-year-old Josh Woodward, suffered only a few bumps and bruises during the accident, but after running his registration authorities noticed that he was operating with a criminally suspended license. During a short discussion with Woodward, officers began to suspect he had been driving under the influence. A subsequent breath test revealed that Woodward was operating the vehicle with a BAC more than three times the legal limit.

That was just the beginning of the bad day for the Woodward family. While authorities were talking to Josh, his 19-year-old brother arrived on scene to check on his brother’s condition. Police noted that Nick Woodward also appeared to be intoxicated, so they asked him to submit to a breathalyzer. Nick failed the test and was arrested and charged with DUI, which just so happens to be his second DUI arrest in the last two weeks.

Perhaps it was his paternal instinct, or maybe it was the booze talking, but before his son’s could be booked into custody, Brian Woodward arrived on scene and tried to move Nick’s car closer to the scene of the accident. Police ordered Brian to stop the vehicle, and they noted that he appeared to be visually and physically impaired. Like his sons before him, Brian submitted to a breathalyzer test. Just like his eldest son, Brian registered a BAC more than three times the legal limit. He was arrested and charged with DUI.

All three Woodwards will appear in court on their DUI charges over the course of the next month.

Related sourcE: WPTZ.com

Bulldozer DUI

Rochester Man Gets DUI on Bulldozer

We’ve written about a bunch of strange DUI stories before, but a Rochester man has found another unique way to be arrested for driving under the influence.

Patrick James Sullivan was arrested on tentative charges of driving under the influence after driving a bulldozer into the Mississippi River.

According to the police report, Sullivan was moving sand on Dakota Island around 1:30am when his bulldozer became stuck in the mighty Mississippi. He told authorities he was working for a construction company hired for a bridge project in the area when he accidentally got his bulldozer stuck in the river.

A crane was eventually brought in to remove the bulldozer from the river, but authorities had some questions for the bulldozer operator. After a short conversation, authorities asked Sullivan to submit to a Breathalyzer test. Sullivan refused, but police felt they had enough evidence to book him on charges of first-degree DWI and refusal to take a breath test.

Authorities say Sullivan has had several run-ins with the law in the past. Winona County Chief Deputy Ron Ganrude said Sullivan has been arrested for DUI on seven previous occasions.

Other Odd DUIs

Although this is the first time we’ve heard of a bulldozer DUI, this is far from the strangest DUI case we’ve seen. Check out some of these crazy stories:

Related source: Pioneer Press

Failure to Yield Minnesota

Pedestrian Awareness Week Comes to St. Paul

In an effort to combat crosswalk collisions, the city of St. Paul has declared this week Pedestrian Awareness Week.

According to city statistics, 302 people have been hit struck by vehicles at intersections in St. Paul over the last two years. That’s far too many, said St. Paul police department spokesman Sgt. Paul Paulos.

“Today people have so many distractions, talking on cellphones or just having a bad day, and they don’t take time to notice that there is a pedestrian,” said Paulos. “They are unfocused. It’s clear and evident that drivers don’t follow the pedestrian laws, and for those who violate there is a high probability they will be cited.”

As part of Pedestrian Awareness Week, St. Paul police will camp out at some areas of high foot-traffic to keep an eye out for drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians, said Paulos. He noted that Minnesota law states that drivers must yield to pedestrians at marked crosswalks and at intersections with or without marked crosswalks.

In addition to the added patrols, the city used a $1,000 donation from the Grand Avenue Business Association to add bright orange flags on corners of some busy St. Paul intersections. Pedestrians can pick up one of the bright flags from a tube on one side of the street and deposit it in a similar tube once they safely cross the street.

Madison, Wisconsin instituted 50 such flag sites a few years ago, and city officials say the program has been a rousing success. Local and national studies say drivers stop about 70 percent of the time when a person appears ready to cross the street with the flag in their hand, compared to just 20 percent when they aren’t equipped with the orange flag.

Possible Penalties

As we mentioned in a previous blog, failing to yield to pedestrian fines can rack up quickly. Make sure you stay aware of your surroundings this week and whenever you’re driving in areas of heavy foot-traffic. Some penalties St. Paul police will be looking for this week include:

  • Failure to obey a stop sign or traffic control device – $128 fine.
  • Failure to yield right of way – $128 fine.
  • Failure to yield to a pedestrian – $178 fine.
  • Improper or prohibited turn – $128 fine.

Under Minnesota law, a driver only needs to wait for a pedestrian to cross their lane of traffic before continuing. Most of the time that takes less than 5 seconds. Give pedestrians those extra seconds and say yourself a $178 fine.

Related source: Star-Tribune

Nick Fairley DUI

Lions’ Fairley Sentenced in DUI Case

Detroit Lions star defensive end Nick Fairley received a six-month suspended sentence for attempting to elude police officers during a traffic stop back in 2012.

Considering the joyride led to an arrest for driving under the influence and reckless driving, Fairley could have received a much harsher sentence. In all, Fairley was sentenced to:

  • $750 in fines.
  • Complete two driving classes by December 10.
  • A six-month suspended sentence if he fails to complete his probation or driving classes.

Fairley should consider himself lucky, especially since he didn’t appear to have the best legal counsel. Unbeknownst to Fairley, the presiding judge had ordered that he be present for sentencing. Fairley’s attorneys did not inform their client that he needed to be in court last Thursday, so he remained with the Lions at training camp.

Fairley’s attorneys asked for a delay in sentencing, and although the judge denied their request, District Court Judge George Hardesty also denied a motion from prosecutors to seek an arrest warrant for Fairley’s failure to appear in court. Attorneys Buzz Jordan and Sid Harrell apologized to the judge, saying they failed to read the judge’s initial order that required Fairley to attend his sentencing. The attorneys noted they incorrectly informed Fairley his presence was not necessary.

In the event that Fairley fails to complete his driving courses by December 10, he’ll be forced to serve his six-month suspended sentence. If the judge decided that Fairley would have to begin serving that sentence immediately, the first game he would miss would be against the Minnesota Vikings. It’s still uncertain if Fairley will face any additional discipline from the league office.

Fairley’s attorneys said they plan to appeal the sentencing decision.

Related source: Detroit Free Press

New Minnesota Laws

New Minnesota Laws Go Into Effect August 1

Laws passed during the 2014 legislative session set to go into effect tomorrow include a ban on weapons for individuals convicted of domestic assault and increased fines for speeding in construction zones, among others.

Quick Overview

Below is a quick run through of some of the bigger changes that affect criminal law that will go into effect on August 1.

Ban on Guns for Violent Offenders – Starting tomorrow, any person convicted of domestic violence or stalking will be unable to legally obtain a firearm in Minnesota. The law prohibits any person subject to an order for protection in a child or domestic abuse case from possessing a weapon for the length of the order. Offenders would also have to submit any firearms they previously possessed if the court decides it is necessary.

Additionally, Minnesota added three crimes to the state’s crime of violence statute. Any person convicted of one of the following crimes will be unable to legally possess a firearm in Minnesota for life:

  • Fifth Degree Assault
  • Felony Domestic Assault
  • Felony Domestic Assault by Strangulation

Work Zone Speeding Fine Increase – This cut and dry law is aimed at keeping construction workers safe. Beginning August 1, motorists caught speeding through a work zone will be fined $300. “The law is important because it provides added protection in areas that can be vulnerable to careless drivers,” said Charlie Zelle, Minnesota DoT commissioner. The law would also include drivers who fail to obey directions from work zone flaggers.

Expanded Drug Law – Legislators expanded the statutory definition of a drug in an effort to remove synthetic drugs from Minnesota communities. The new law states that an illegal drug is, “any compound, substance, or derivative that is not approved for human consumption under Minnesota law [when introduced to the body induces an effect similar to that of scheduled drugs.]”

Related source: Wahpeton Daily News

Super Extreme DUI

NBA Player Tucker Arrested for Super Extreme DUI

Phoenix Suns small forward P.J. Tucker was so drunk when he got behind the wheel of his Mercedes-Benz on May 10 that he earned a dubious distinction after getting pulled over by one of Arizona’s finest.

Tucker was arrested for a “super extreme DUI.”

Under Arizona law, super extreme DUI charges are brought against any person found operating a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol content greater than 0.20. The legal limit is 0.08, so a super extreme DUI occurs when a person is driving with a BAC of at least 2.5x the legal limit.

That’s exactly what happened to Tucker back in May. According to the police report, an officer spotted Tucker rolling through stop signs near a popular nightlife destination in Scottsdale.

The arresting officer pulled Tucker over and noted that he exhibited “thick and slurred speech” and had “watery and bloodshot” eyes. He also wrote in his report that there was a “powerful” smell of alcohol emanating from the vehicle.

Tucker allegedly told the officer he only had one beer, but that appears to be a lie, unless his glass could hold 150 ounces of liquid. A preliminary breath test showed that Tucker was driving with a BAC of .201, and a subsequent breath test taken at the station registered a .222.

DUI, Extreme DUI, and Super Extreme DUI

Although Minnesota hasn’t adopted the moniker super extreme DUI, they hold 0.20 BAC as a threshold for increased punishment. Driving with a BAC greater than 0.20 is considered an aggravating factor, meaning your Fourth Degree DUI will become, at minimum, a Third Degree DUI, and if convicted, you’ll have to outfit your car with a Whiskey Plate.

As for Arizona, they have three levels of DUI. They are:

  • DUI (0.08 BAC or greater)
  • Extreme DUI (0.15 BAC or greater)
  • Super Extreme DUI (0.20 or greater)

A super extreme DUI carries a minimum 45-day jail sentence, unless the defendant installs an ignition interlock device or agrees to a form of house arrest.

Tucker was charged with a stop sign violation, and four degrees of DUI, including at least one charge of a DUI, extreme DUI, and super extreme DUI. Aside from criminal penalties, Tucker should expect a suspension from the NBA. Based on other player DUIs, Tucker is likely looking at a two-game suspension.

Fatal DUI

St. Paul in Top 10 for Fewest Fatal DUIs Per Capita

A new study examining fatal alcohol-related car crashes in large metropolitan areas found that St. Paul, Minnesota, is in the Top 10 for fewest alcohol-related driving deaths per capita. Additionally, no Minnesota cities were named in the Top 25 cities with the most alcohol-related fatal car crashes.

The study published by NerdWallet.com examined car crash data from cities across the US from 2010-2012. To analyze how citizens in one state dealt with a DUI compared to those in another state, researchers also tracked:

  • Average car insurance premium
  • Average car insurance premium after a DUI
  • Total number of fatal alcohol-related car crashes
  • City population
  • Fatal alcohol-related crashes per capita

The Best and the Worst

California led the way in cities with the highest rate of alcohol-related deaths per capita, as two California cities cracked the Top 5 and four made their way into the Top 10. See the chart below for the cities with the highest rate of fatal alcohol-related car accidents per capita.

1. San Bernadino, CA

2. Mobile, AL

3. Riverside, CA

4. Tulsa, OK

5. Lubbock, TX

While California may hold the dubious distinction of having four cities in the Top 10 of the above list, they also claimed the top three spots on the list of cities with the fewest fatal alcohol-related car crashes. The five major cities with the fewest deaths are:

1. Moreno Valley, CA

2. Glendale, CA

3. Santa Rosa, CA

4. Arlington, VA

5. Aurora, IL

Although it didn’t crack the Top 5, St. Paul finished as the ninth best city for fewest fatal alcohol-related crashes.  Only 0.0140 residents per 1,000 perished in such an accident between 2010-2012.

Also, car insurance premiums in St. Paul didn’t spike very much compared to other states. Research shows that the average St. Paulian can expect their insurance to rise about 30 percent after a DUI. Conversely, residents in Durham, North Carolina, can expect their insurance to increase an average of 157 percent after a DUI.

For more information about the study, head on over to NerdWallet.

Minnesota Speeding Ticket

Speed Demons Beware: Minnesota Amps Up Speeding Patrols

Speeders should lay off the gas pedal for the next 10 days as nearly 400 Minnesota law enforcement agencies will be conducting extra speed patrols through July 27 in an effort to reduce the number of traffic accidents, injuries and deaths on Minnesota roads.

Speed is one of the leading factors in fatal and serious injury crashes. An average of 78 people die and 222 are seriously injured each year in Minnesota as a result of traveling at unsafe speeds. Alcohol and distracted driving are two other factors that contribute to auto accidents, but speeding is by far the biggest issue. That’s exactly why law enforcement agencies around the state are set to amp up patrols for the next 10 days.

“Far too many motorists ignore speed limits and put all of our lives at risk on the road by speeding,” said Donna Berger, Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety Director. “There’s greater potential to lose control, you have less time to avoid a crash, and the chances are higher of being killed or seriously injured.”

The Office of Traffic Safety also notes that, in the long run, speeding doesn’t save much time. A 30-minute commute at 65 mph will only save a person about five minutes compared to traveling at the posted speed limit of 55 mph, and that doesn’t factor in how long a traffic stop with a police officer may take.

Speeding Ticket Fines in Minnesota

The average cost of a speeding ticket in Minnesota is $120 for a person traveling 10 mph over the posted speed limit. That number doubles to roughly $250 if the person is driving at least 20 mph over the posted limit, and anyone ticketed at speeds over 100 mph can have their license revoked for six months.

Avery Appelman said he routinely challenges the legality of traffic stops for his clients, but it can become an uphill battle if the driver was excessively speeding.

“There are many ways to fight a traffic ticket,” said Appelman. “But the easiest way is to avoid them all together. I’m not saying you need to be under the posted speed limit at all times, but go with the flow of traffic, and avoid being ‘that guy’ who bobs and weaves through four lanes of traffic just to save himself a few seconds. When you speed you are endangering everyone on the road, your wallet and your driver’s license.”

Related source: MNDOT