A man riding his horse during the Colusa County Fair Parade in Colusa, California, last Friday was arrested on suspicion of felony California DUI after his horse trampled a boy.
Armando Martinez Ruiz, a participant in the parade, was thrown from his horse after the horse bucked. As the horse ran away and through a group of spectators lining the parade route, it trampled an eight-year-old boy breaking his leg.
Officers found the horse and Ruiz was arrested on suspicion of felony DUI.
“In California, the same laws apply when riding horses as driving cars,” the Colusa Police Department said on its Facebook page.
This incident comes only a few months after a man was caught riding his horse on the 91 freeway in my hometown of Long Beach.
In that case, California Highway Patrol responded to a report that a man, later identified as Luis Alfredo Perez, had ridden his horse eastbound onto the 91 freeway. Officers found Perez after he exited the freeway in Bellflower.
It was later determined that the Perez’s blood alcohol content was 0.21/0.19 percent, more than double the legal limit, and he was arrested on suspicion of DUI.
Following Perez’s arrest, CHP took to Twitter saying, “No, you may not ride your horse on the freeway, and certainly not while intoxicated.” It included a picture of horse whose name was Guera and who was later released to Perez’s mother.
The Colusa Police Department was not wrong when it said that the same laws apply to horse riders as they do with drivers of motor vehicles.
According to California Vehicle Code section 21050, “Every person riding or driving an animal upon a highway has all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this division…”
Since California DUI laws apply to the rider of a horse on a road, Perez was charged with a run-of-the-mill DUI. He faced fines between $390 and $1,000, three to five years of summary probation, a DUI program of up to nine months, and up to six months in county jail.
Ruiz, on the other hand, is facing felony DUI charges because someone was injured. Depending on the severity of the injury, someone can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony when their impaired driving injures someone other than the driver. And because Ruiz is being accused of felony DUI, he faces up to four years in prison, an additional (and consecutive) three to six years because broken bones can be considered “great bodily injury,” a “strike” under California’s Three Strikes Law, a fine between $1,015 and $5,000, and an 18 or 30 month DUI program.
I’ll leave you with a poem written by a dissenting Pennsylvania Supreme Court judge in a Pennsylvania case which held that a horse is not a vehicle for purposes of driving under the influence.
“A horse is a horse, of course, of course, but the Vehicle Code does not divorce its application from, perforce, a steed as my colleagues said. ‘It’s not vague,’ I’ll say until I’m hoarse, and whether a car, a truck or horse, this law applies with equal force, and I’d reverse instead.”