In May 2004, a law went into effect referred to as “Vanessa’s Law” in memory of Vanessa Weiss, who was killed in May 2003 just days before her 16th birthday. She was a passenger in a vehicle driven by an unlicensed 15-year-old. Provisions of this law apply to drivers under age 18.

  • An unlicensed teen who received a crash-related moving violation or an alcohol/controlled substance-related violation (a violation of one or more statutes, including DWI, Implied Consent, Open Bottle, or Underage Drinking and Driving/Not a Drop Law) cannot be given a license, including an instruction permit or provisional license, until age 18. When this person turns 18, s/he must pass the driver’s license knowledge test, obtain an instruction permit and hold it for at least six months, and then pass the road test.
  • A provisional license holder whose driving privilege was revoked due to a crash-related moving violation or an alcohol/controlled substance-related violation cannot regain a license until age 18. At that time, the person must complete the following steps to obtain a full driver’s license:
    • Fulfill all reinstatement requirements, including the payment of fees which can be up to $680 depending on circumstances;
    • Complete the classroom portion of a formal driver education course;
    • Pass the driver’s license knowledge test;
    • Obtain an instruction permit and hold it for three months;
    • Complete a driver’s behind-the-wheel class.

Graduated licensing

Below are highlights of the Minnesota graduated licensing law.

Stage 1- Instruction Permit

  • Must be at least 15;
  • Must complete 30 hours of classroom education and be enrolled in behind-the-wheel instruction;
  • Must pass the knowledge test, have parent or legal guardian approval; and
  • While unlicensed, must not have had a crash-related moving violation or an alcohol/controlled substance-related violation (a violation of one or more statutes, including DWI, Implied Consent, Open Bottle, or Underage Drinking and Driving/Not a Drop Law).
  • Permit holder may drive under the supervision of a parent, guardian or other licensed driver 21 or older occupying the seat beside them.
  • All passengers under 18 must wear their seat belts/child safety restraints.
  • May not operate a vehicle while using a cellular or wireless telephone, whether handheld or handsfree, while vehicle is in operation.

Stage 2 – Provisional License

  • Must be at least 16 and have completed six hours of behind-the-wheel instruction;
  • Must have held a permit for six months, with no convictions for moving violations or alcohol/controlled substance-related violations (a violation of one or more statutes, including DWI, Implied Consent, Open Bottle, or Underage Drinking and Driving/Not a Drop Law)
  • Must have at least 30 hours of supervised driving, including 10 hours of night driving, verified by parent/guardian; and
  • Must pass the road test.
  • All passengers under 18 must wear their seat belt/child safety restraint.
  • May not operate a vehicle while using a cellular or wireless telephone, whether handheld or handsfree, while vehicle is in operation.

Stage 3 – Full License

  • Must be at least 18 or
  • Must have held a provisional license for one year with no convictions for crash-related moving violations, no alcohol/controlled substance-related violations (a violation of one or more statutes, including DWI, Implied Consent, Open Bottle, or Underage Drinking and Driving/Not a Drop Law) and no more than one non-crash-related moving violation; and
  • Parent/guardian must attest to at least 10 additional hours of supervised driving.

Not a Drop.

In Minnesota, it is illegal for a person under age 21 to consume alcohol. If an underage person drinks and drives, they face penalties under Minnesota’s “Not a Drop” law in addition to DWI laws. Under “Not a Drop,” if an officer observes an underage person operating or in physical control of a motor vehicle and determines they have been drinking, they can lose their license for 30 to 180 days. The length of suspension will depend on the driver’s prior record.