Seat-belt law challenge turned aside by Court of Appeals

In 2009, Minnesota changed its mandatory seat belt law to allow police to stop you just for not wearing a seat belt. Previously, you had to be stopped for another violation in order to be cited for failure to wear seat belts.

Wade Wendorf lost his court case about the ticket he got in May 2010, and this week, he lost his claim at the Minnesota Court of Appeals that the law is vague. He cited a reference on the state revisor’s version of the law that referenced the earlier language.

(b) A person who is 15 years of age or older and who violates paragraph (a), clause (1) or (2), is subject to a fine of $25. The driver of the passenger vehicle or commercial motor vehicle in which the violation occurred is subject to a $25 fine for a violation of paragraph (a), clause (2) or (3), by a child of the driver under the age of 15 or any child under the age of 11. A peace officer may not issue a citation for a violation of this section unless the officer lawfully stopped or detained the driver of the motor vehicle for a moving violation other than a violation involving motor vehicle equipment. The Department of Public Safety shall not record a violation of this subdivision on a person’s driving record.”

But the Court of Appeals ruled it doesn’t matter — driving without a seat belt, it suggested, is driving without a seat belt:

The relevant difference between the two provisions–whether a peace officer may stop a motorist solely on the basis of a seat-belt violation–has no bearing on whether a motorist may drive without a seat belt. Thus, an ordinary person could not have been confused about whether driving without a seat belt is prohibited.

The court also said it was clear the revisor’s inclusion of the section above was a note for historical purposes on the changing nature of the state’s seat belt law.

Here’s the decision.