Tougher fines for texting while driving among new MN laws that go live Saturday


If you're someone who regularly texts behind the wheel, then you're going to have to pay a bigger fine if you're caught.

Sterner punishment for those who choose "texting over safety" is among multiple laws that will become active on Aug. 1, and it will hit the wallets of repeat offenders.

Under the law, drivers will get an extra $225 fine for their second texting while driving violation, and every one after that, in addition to the current $50 fine, according to the Minnesota House.

In a press release, Minnesota's Department of Public Safety (DPS) has reminded drivers that it's illegal to read, compose or send texts and emails, or access the Internet, while their vehicle is in motion or in traffic – including sitting at a stop light or stop sign.

"We all see it – drivers looking at their phones, drifting out of their lane, not moving when the light turns green, and seemingly oblivious to the dangers they present to themselves and others," DPS safety commissioner Mona Dohman said in a press release.

The DPS said that 19 percent of traffic fatalities and serious injuries in Minnesota between 2010 and 2014 were distraction-related.

What other laws will be effective starting Saturday?

The bodily fluid law: Following a particularly unsavory case of a Blaine man ejaculating into a co-worker's coffee cup, the law has been changed so putting bodily fluids in another person's food or drink will be illegal. The Blaine man was only punished for indecent exposure because there was no law covering what he did at the time.

It will carry a maximum $3,000 fine and covers blood, seminal or vaginal fluid, urine or human feces.

Security hospital protection: There will be extra protections for staff working with mentally ill and dangerous patients at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter, which will mean anyone who assaults a care worker or throws their bodily fluids onto the person will face sterner action.

Earlier this month a security counselor at the hospital was hospitalized after being subjected to a vicious assault by a teenage patient.

'Right to Try' for terminal patients: Terminally ill patients who have "exhausted all conventional forms of recovery" will be able to get their doctor to prescribe an experimental treatment as a last resort. This means they can access experimental drugs or devices that have passed the first phase of clinical trials, but have yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Automated license plate readers: Minnesota has decided to regulate for the first time law enforcement agencies' use of these devices, which will require authorities to delete data collected from them within 60 days, unless it's related to an ongoing investigation. It will also limit access to the data and set up compliance audits every two years.

Hire a Veteran Month moved: Hire a Veteran Month will be officially be moved from May to July, the change coming because May is a "busy month" for people with school graduations, the fishing opener and Mother's Day.

Gun law changes: It will be a gross misdemeanor to act as a "straw buyer" – obtaining a firearm on behalf of a person ineligible to purchase or possess one. Other elements of the omnibus public safety bill will see the ban on certain offenders from possessing firearms to extend to ammunition as well.

Creation of officer down alert: A Blue Alert system will be created and go live to release urgent information to the public to find someone suspected of killing or injuring a law enforcement officer. It will be enacted a couple of days after the first anniversary of Mendota Heights Police Officer Scott Patrick's killing.

The state will also look into the possibility of implementing a "Silver Alert" system to help the recovery of missing senior citizens with dementia, Alzheimer's Disease, brain injuries or other mental disabilities.

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