On June 9, 2009, the Minnesota legislature created a passing exemption providing for an increased speed limit when passing another vehicle. Essentially, the legislature increased the speed limit by ten miles per hour over the posted speed limit when the driver: (1) is on a two-lane highway with one lane for each direction of travel; (2) is on a highway with a posted speed limit equal to or greater than 55 miles per hour; (3) is overtaking and passing another vehicle traveling in the same direction; and (4) meets the requirements in section 169.18. Minn. Stat. § 169.14 (2009).
Prior to this legislative enactment, Minnesota drivers were not allowed to surpass the speed limit by even one mile per hour in order to pass another vehicle. The problem with the prior law was two-fold in that a driver exceeding the speed limit to pass another vehicle could be issued a citation for speeding. However, a driver maintaining the posted speed limit to pass would need more time and distance, and thus would create a potentially dangerous passing situation in which the passing driver could also be issued a citation for failing to maintain a safe distance when passing. The recent legislation may resolve both issues because it will decrease the amount of time necessary to make a safe pass, and will no longer result in a speeding ticket for driver’s passing within ten miles of the posted speed limit.
This legislative change also has ramifications for law enforcement in the realm of DUI crimes. Prior to June 9, 2009, police officers could justify a pretextual DUI stop based on a vehicle passing while driving over the posted speed limit. The recent changes in the law mean that law enforcement must witness some other type of violation before puling over a vehicle.
If you are charged with speeding while passing a motor vehicle after June 9, 2009, or another criminal charge that stemmed from speeding while passing, you may have new legal defenses based on the Minnesota legislative changes. This area of the law continually changes, so you need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands the unique implications of this legislative enactment.