Failing to Yield to an Emergency Vehicle Ticket - Minnesota

In the hierarchy of traffic tickets, failing to yield to an emergency vehicle is one of the more serious offenses. Most of the time, it’s a simple petty misdemeanor offense (which is not considered a crime under Minnesota law). But, sometimes, it can be a misdemeanor crime. And with it can come some serious criminal and collateral consequences. With that being said, proving the crime may not be as easy as one may think, leaving possible defenses to such a serious traffic ticket.

To begin with, it is important to understand how the statute defines failing to yield to an emergency vehicle (Minn. Stat. 169.20, subd. 5(a)): 

Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle equipped with at least one lighted lamp exhibiting red light visible … from a distance of 500 feet to the front of the vehicle and … when the driver is giving audible signal by siren, the driver of each other vehicle shall yield the right-of-way and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to and as close as possible to the right-hand edge or curb of the highway clear of any intersection, and shall stop and remain in this position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed, except when otherwise directed by a police officer. 

There’s a lot to take in there, so let’s boil it down to the four key elements – as detailed in a recent court of appeals decision, State v. Li, A19-1970: (1) the driver was immediately approached by an authorized emergency vehicle; (2) the emergency vehicle displayed a visible red light; (3) the emergency vehicle emitted a siren; and (4) the driver failed to yield the right of way to the emergency vehicle, stopping near the right-hand curb, and remaining there until the emergency vehicle had passed.

In most failing to yield to an emergency vehicle cases, evidence that a driver did not pull over to the side of the road when an ambulance, for instance, had its lights on is easy to prove. Often, though, the additional requirement that the ambulance had its siren on can be overlooked. Without this additional fact, the State’s case fails.

If the State can prove its case, it is a petty misdemeanor offense, which carries a fine of up to $300. A driver may also see an increase in their insurance premiums, which seems more likely considering the serious nature of this kind of traffic ticket. Additionally, multiple traffic violations can lead to a loss of license. But, under certain circumstances, the penalty may be a misdemeanor offense. Failing to yield to an emergency vehicle may be a misdemeanor when the driver intentionally obstructs the emergency vehicle or intentionally fails to comply with their obligation to pull over to the side of the road. The latter part seems awfully difficult to imagine what set of facts would cause a prosecutor to charge this out as a misdemeanor. Nonetheless, it won’t stop over-zealous prosecutors from trying.

If you are facing a failing to yield to emergency vehicles ticket, finding a knowledgeable Minnesota traffic ticket attorney is critical. Most will just try to plead the case out as soon as possible, earning a quick buck along the way. At North Star, we give each client the diligence and respect they and their case deserve. And we know the nuances of this offense and how to fight on your behalf. Contact us today.