In May 2003, Vanessa Weiss was killed just a few days before she turned 16. Vanessa was a passenger in a vehicle being driven by a 15-year-old without a license. In response to this tragic accident, Minnesota lawmakers created Vanessa’s Law and placed it into effect in May of 2004 – exactly one year after Vanessa’s death.
In the state of Minnesota, underage drivers who have a drop of alcohol in their blood may be charged with underage DWI. The smallest amount of alcohol in the system can lead a teen to violate drinking and driving laws and be without a license for several years. The provisions of Vanessa’s Law apply to all drivers under the age of 18. It covers a number of areas, and also enumerates the penalties that an underage DWI offender or unlicensed minor driver must face.
Under Vanessa’s Law, an unlicensed driver below 18 years of age is unable to receive a driver’s license if he or she is convicted of crash-related moving violation, a DWI, or a DWI-related offense. These violations also include statutes such as Implied Consent, Minnesota open bottle law, Underage Drinking and Driving, and the Not a Drop Law. After turning 18, the individual must first obtain an instruction permit for at least a 6-month period, take a driver’s license knowledge test, and then pass the road exam in order to regain driving privileges.
If the individual is convicted of a DWI-related offense while with an instruction permit or a provisional license, then he or she must first fulfill additional conditions. After turning 18, the offender be able to complete the classroom portion of a formal driver education course, pay fees amounting up to $680 and fulfill other reinstatement requirements, complete a behind-the-wheel driver’s class, obtain and hold an instruction permit for at least three months, and pass the driver’s license knowledge test.
In several aspects, a juvenile who is convicted of DWI or a DWI-related offense must face more penalties compared to an adult convicted of DWI. The main difference is that minor offenders cannot be sent to adult prison or jail.
Vanessa’s Law is one that applies to all drivers below the age of 18 as a reminder to all underage individuals who are constantly told not to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.