Obscure traffic laws in Minnesota

Every state has its own long list of traffic law statutes. They tend to be similar across the country but may vary slightly in the details. Many municipalities, including St. Paul and Minneapolis, also have some of their own traffic ordinances.

Below are some commonly overlooked Minnesota traffic laws.

Broken or Cracked Windshields

Windshields are not an explicitly stated requirement of Minnesota traffic law. However, if your vehicle does have a windshield (and it’s safe to say the vast majority of them do) they must have windshield wipers that are in good working order. You can get ticketed if your windshield wipers are cracked or broken.

Minnesota drivers are also technically prohibited from operating a vehicle with a cracked or discolored windshield that obstructs their vision. This is one of those laws where enforcement is somewhat discretionary. However, if an officer is looking for a reason to pull you over, a cracked windshield that’s in your frontward line of sight may be enough.

You’re also not permitted to drive if your windshield or side windows are fogged up or covered in frost to the point where it obstructs your vision.

Very Specific Littering Statutes

Do you get annoyed at people who throw their cigarette butts on the street or highway? The law does too, since cigarette filters are specifically listed as litter. If you throw anything out of your window in view of law enforcement, they can stop and cite you.

Other oddly specific items listed in Minnesota’s vehicle littering statute include:

  • Debris from fireworks
  • Snow and ice
  • Swill
  • Carcasses of dead animals
  • Nearly every synonym for litter: garbage, refuse, trash and rubbish
  • Any form of offensive matter or substance likely to injure a person, animal or vehicle

Rules for Passing Slower Vehicles

If you’re driving in the left lane and people behind you want to go faster they are legally allowed to honk to get you to move. If that happens, you’re required to move over to the right so they can get past. You also aren’t allowed to increase speed until they’ve safely passed.

There are a number of passing regulations and specific exceptions to the normal pass on the left rules. If you’re unfamiliar with legal passing procedures, it may be worth reading through.

Seat Belt Laws

You pretty much always need to be wearing a seat belt unless:

  • You’re driving a passenger vehicle in reverse
  • You’re on the clock and your job requires you to frequently stop and get in and out of your vehicle (you also can’t be going more than 25 miles per hour between these frequent stops)
  • You’re a USPS mail carrier or delivering newspapers
  • You’re in a pickup truck engaging in farm work/activities
  • You have a note from your doctor verifying you’re physically unable to wear a seat belt

You can also potentially receive a ticket if you’re not wearing your seat belt properly. It wasn’t until 2009 that Minnesota police were actually allowed to stop motorists for not wearing a seat belt. Before then, you could only be cited for a seat belt violation if you had been legally pulled over for another traffic infraction.

Types of Traffic Offenses in Minnesota

There are four traffic offense levels in Minnesota:

  • Petty misdemeanor
  • Misdemeanor
  • Gross misdemeanor
  • Felony

The vast majority of traffic infractions are either petty misdemeanors or misdemeanors. Petty misdemeanors, which constitute most first-offense traffic violations, carry up to $300 fines and don’t require a court appearance.

Misdemeanors are a bigger deal. They might require a court appearance and have penalties that can include up to 90 days of imprisonment and up to $1,000 in fines.

Examples of petty misdemeanors include:

  • Speeding
  • Failing to signal a turn
  • Parking in a restricted location
  • Vehicle equipment citations
  • Running a red light or stop sign

Fines can be increased based on certain factors. For example, if you’re going 20 mph or more over the speed limit your fine could be doubled. If you’ve been ticketed more than once for littering out of a vehicle, which is a misdemeanor, your fine will be a minimum of $400.

Get Help with Serious Traffic Violations

There are scenarios where Minnesota drivers might be charged with gross misdemeanor or felony driving infractions. Fourth degree DWI in Minnesota is only a misdemeanor, third degree and second degree DWIs are gross misdemeanors and first degree DWI is a felony. All of these offenses should be taken seriously.

If you’re facing legal troubles and want to speak with a local Minneapolis–St. Paul lawyer about your options, the Minnesota Lawyer Referral and Information Service can help. Our referral counselors are available by appointment or 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday to help you find a vetted local lawyer with experience representing clients in cases like yours.

Call us at 612-752-6699 to get started.

Disclaimer: This information should be used for general information and not as legal advice for a specific legal matter you may be facing. If you have a specific legal problem, you are encouraged to discuss your situation with a lawyer in the appropriate jurisdiction.