Passing a school bus is a serious matter in Minnesota. In Minnesota, a person convicted of failing to stop a vehicle while a school bus has its stop-arm extended is guilty of a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor offense is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1000 fine.
However, a person may also be charged with a gross-misdemeanor if they fail to stop their motor vehicle and commit one or both of the following:
- Passing or attempting to pass the school bus on the right-hand passenger-door side of the bus; and/or
- Passing or attempting to pass the school bus in a motor vehicle when a child is outside of and on the street used by the school bus or on the adjacent sidewalk.
A gross misdemeanor offense is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a $3000 fine.
Now these are "up to" offenses, in that these are the maximiums that you could receive. You likely would receive no jail, and likely a lower fine.
Another issue that could come up is "proof". The reason that you got a letter is that there was no police around. The driver of the bus either physically jotted down the license number or there's video evidence of your vehicle doing this (and whoever was watching the video jotted down the number, either correctly or incorrectly). The number that was jotted down was associated with your own.
So it's possible that there was a mistake, either in perception (the driver) or reception (the viewer of the video), or it's possible that it actually happened.
The first step is to wait until you get a call or letter explaining more. It will be from an investigator or possibly a prosecutor. If on the letter you received you have a phone number that you can call for more information, that would be a good idea.
Now if you are charged, you're going to want to get an attorney. This is a serious offense, and starts out as a misdemeanor.
Depending on the circumstances surrounding the offense, a passing a stopped school bus conviction can lead to a driver’s license suspension or revocation.
That being said, if you're charged, you need to contact an attorney in your area that deals with criminal traffic law cases. Go to www.lawyers.com or www.legalmatch.com to find an attorney in your area. You should be able to find one that will give you a free initial consultation and better advise you of your rights, any problems with your case, likelihood of success, how courts are treating cases such as yours in your area, and what you should do next.
Now it could also be a joke, but you shouldn't treat it as one. If I were you, I would contact the police in the area to say that you received this letter and wanted to verify that it was legit. They should direct you to the proper department. Again, police don't escort every school bus, and the school bus isn't going to run you down with flashing lights. This is, unfortunately, the way that they proceed with these matters..
I am still typing your response, I just wanted to submit what I wrote so far so you know that I am still with you...