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After 8-year-old's death, an attempt to close DWI snowmobile loophole

Currently a driving ban doesn't lead to a snowmobile ban.

What's happening?

Lawmakers are attempting to close a loophole that allows those convicted of DWI to still use a snowmobile or ATV even if their driving license has been revoked.

The bills proposed this week would ban people convicted of any DWI offense from using snowmobiles or ATVs for a year.

That means a first-time DWI offender would be banned from driving a snowmobile for longer than they'd be banned from driving on roads. 

Currently a first DWI offense carries a 90-day driving ban, which can be reduced to 30 days with a guilty plea. 

Rep. Anne Neu, (R-North Branch), who is sponsoring the bill in the House, says the new law would close a loophole in Minnesota where those banned from driving are still allowed to operate off-road vehicles.

Her proposals would also eliminate the loophole that allows a first-time DWI offender to continue to drive if their first offense happened while using a boat or off-road vehicle.

The bills were approved in House and Senate committees this week.

Why the changes?

It stems from the tragic death of 8-year-old Alan Geisenkoetter Jr., who was struck by a snowmobile on Chisago Lake in January and died five days later.

The operator of that snowmobile had not only been drinking at the time, he had three previous DWI convictions and his driver's license had been revoked on three occasions.

The 45-year-old Eric J. Coleman is now facing murder charges relating to the boy's death.

The Pioneer Press reports that representatives of two snowmobile associations testified in favor of the law changes at the Capitol this week.

Also at the hearings was Geisenkoetter's grandfather, Al Geisenkoetter, who said: "They're lethal vehicles. There's no reason to treat them different," the Pioneer Press writes.

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