The Strange Ways to be Charged with a DUI
Undoubtedly, the primary purpose of DUI laws is to keep the public safe from intoxicated or otherwise impaired individuals from driving their motor vehicles on roads. When most of us envision a DUI stop take place, we envision someone getting pulled over in a sedan, or an SUV, or perhaps a minivan. But there are less obvious, some even absurd, ways of being cited for a DUI that don’t even involve driving an actual vehicle. While this might seem strange, the purpose of DUI laws – to keep the public safe – doesn’t change whether a person is on a golf cart, a Zamboni, or a horse.
One unusual way to get a DUI is by driving a golf cart under the influence. Many golf carts are battery-powered. Accordingly, there is an argument that they should be treated differently than standard motor vehicles for DUI purposes. However, the State of California disregards this argument. It applies DUI laws to any form of vehicle that can be propelled on a highway, except vehicles which are exclusively human powered. Therefore, under California’s definition, DUI laws apply to golf carts. Importantly, it does not matter if a golf cart driver is oblivious to the fact that it is possible to get a DUI while driving a golf cart. This is problematic because golf custom leads golfers to believe that operating a golf cart after drinking a few beers is normal. Although enforcement is less prevalent on golf courses, impaired golf cart drivers should understand that the possibility of a DUI exists.
Ice hockey fans are familiar with a “vehicle” commonly known as the Zamboni. For those unfamiliar, a Zamboni is used to resurface the ice floor at hockey games. Only a select few individuals have the pleasure of operating a Zamboni. They too should be cautious that operating this “vehicle” under the influence could result in a DUI. In 2015, a Fargo, North Dakota Zamboni driver was arrested on suspicion of driving a Zamboni while intoxicated. The full story can be found at: http://www.cbssports.com/nhl/news/fargo-zamboni-driver-arrested-on-suspicion-of-dui Even though the Zamboni driver was not driving on a public street, North Dakota’s broad DUI laws still applied.
The two scenarios above make at least some sense considering that golf carts and Zambonis are, at a minimum, vehicles with mechanical motors. Nobody wants to be run over by a golf cart in the middle of their backswing, and nobody wants their child to witness a Zamboni driver running into the wall of an ice hockey rink. But, what if your transportation method does not involve a motor vehicle at all, can you still be cited for DUI? In some states, the answer is yes.
In places like Texas, where riding horses is commonplace, people can be arrested, charged, and convicted of a DUI for riding a horse while under the influence. For instance, two Texans were arrested in 2011 for riding a horse and a mule down a street while intoxicated. They were charged with DUI, although the charges were subsequently reduced to public intoxication. Regardless, the possibility still exists that riding a horse or mule in Texas (and in other states) while intoxicated can result in a DUI.
In 2017, a 53-year-old Florida woman was charged with drunk driving for riding a horse down a highway with a 0.16 BAC. Clearly, she was putting herself, the horse, and others on the highway in danger by riding a horse in such an intoxicated state.
In South Carolina, a 25-year-old woman was driving a Power Wheels electric toy truck at a whopping five miles per hour while intoxicated. A video of the incident can be seen at www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/06/20/megan-holman-driving-toy-truck-drunk-arrested-south-carolina/1519018001. The woman told law enforcement officers that she was driving the toy truck as part of a scavenger hunt. She miraculously avoided a DUI conviction even though the toy truck had a battery in it (similar to a golf cart). But, she was eventually charged with public intoxication. Nonetheless, this incident demonstrates that, while charges may eventually get dropped or dismissed, police can and will still arrest someone for a DUI even on something like a Power Wheels toy truck.
Individuals must remember that law enforcement officers can arrest on suspicion of a DUI for unexpected reasons like driving a golf cart under the influence, or Zamboni under the influence, or even riding a Power Wheels under the influence. While it might not necessarily seem fair to some that law enforcement officers can issue DUI tickets for all these seemingly harmless actions, individuals must still be aware that there are, in fact, risks associated with performing these uncommon methods of transportation while intoxicated. However, when individuals are engaged in particularly risky behavior like riding a horse down a highway while intoxicated, law enforcement officers are less inclined to look the other way. In fact, officers can be more likely to take notice and be forced to take action against the person.