Sunday, June 12, 2011

Can I get a DUI while pushing my own wheelchair?

I’ve had some more questions about what sort circumstances can lend themselves to DUIs. 

I never know exactly what someone is asking me when they ask a question like, “Can I get a DUI while riding a horse?”  One person asking that question can mean something completely different than another.  Some people intend to ask, “Will a police officer arrest me for riding a horse while under the influence?” and other people intend to ask, “Is it against the law to ride a horse while under the influence.”  And I know those questions seem very similar.  Some people are rolling their eyes at me right now, thinking “He’s going off on some BS legalese tangent.  Don’t try to ‘lawyer’ me, Greg.  Just tell me the answer.”  But the two questions really can be worlds apart.

We have three questions for today's conversation.  1) Can I get a DUI while riding a bicycle?  2) Can I get a DUI while riding a horse?  and 3) Can I get a DUI while propelling my own wheelchair?  All three are going to depend on the definition of "vehicle" under the Kentucky Revised Statutes, so let’s start with the definition of “vehicle” and “motor vehicle” which appear in KRS 189.010 (19), subsections (a) and (b), respectively.  The definitions are kind of broad.  Here they are:

(19) (a) "Vehicle" includes:
1. All agencies for the transportation of persons or property over or upon the public highways of the Commonwealth; and
2. All vehicles passing over or upon the highways.
(b) "Motor vehicle" includes all vehicles, as defined in paragraph (a) of this subsection except:
1. Road rollers;
2. Road graders;
3. Farm tractors;
4. Vehicles on which power shovels are mounted;
5. Construction equipment customarily used only on the site of construction and which is not practical for the transportation of persons or property upon the highways;
6. Vehicles that travel exclusively upon rails;
7. Vehicles propelled by electric power obtained from overhead wires while being operated within any municipality or where the vehicles do not travel more than five (5) miles beyond the city limits of any
municipality; and
8. Vehicles propelled by muscular power

I gotta tell you the truth – I don’t like how our legislators have written these definitions.  They could be a little more clear as to what a “vehicle” is in the first place, before trying to weed out the difference between motor vehicles and vehicles.  But honestly, it doesn’t matter that much for the purpose of today’s conversation, because you can be found guilty of DUI if you are operating ANY vehicle ANYWHERE in the state, while under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants, pursuant to KRS 189.520.  The answers to today's questions depend on whether something constitutes a “vehicle.”

We will tackle bicycles first, because they are the easiest.  

Can I get a DUI for riding a bicycle while intoxicated?

Yes.  A police officer will most likely arrest you, and you can certainly be found guilty of DUI for riding a bike while intoxicated.  A bicycle is an agency for the transportation of people on the public highways of this great Commonwealth of Kentucky.  Bikes are for people to ride, and it is reasonable to assume they are to be ridden on roads (amongst other places).  So, yes.  Bikes count.  If you still have any questions concerning the same, please consult Thomas v. Dahl, 170 S.W.2d 337 (Ky. App. 1943).

Like Jigga, we are on to the next one.  

Can I get a DUI for riding a horse while intoxicated?

This is where it gets important to separate the question into two questions.  First, we will answer the question of “Will a police officer arrest me for riding a horse while under the influence?” and the answer is yes.  Cops will arrest you if you are drunk on a horse.  Just ask Millard Greg Dwyer, who was arrested in Somerset for the same.  An off duty Kentucky State Trooper said that Mr. Dwyer nearly fell off the animal, so he was arrested and charged with DUI. 

As for the question, “Is it against the law to ride a horse while under the influence.”  That question depends on whether a Court would consider a horse to be an agency for the transportation of people on the public highways of Kentucky.  The answer is that most courts would find that, even though the subject is a source of debate amongst legal nerds such as myself and the people who write the Law Reader.  See http://news.lawreader.com/?p=784.  As you can tell by clicking on that link, the people at the Law Reader have a clear cut opinion that “It is not a DUI offense to ride a horse while intoxicated!”  I disagree with them, and my advice to you is:  Stay off the horse when you are drunk.  I bet Millard Greg Dwyer would also tell you that you can, indeed, get into some trouble for being drunk on a horse.


Lastly, the most complicated question of the day is “Can I get a DUI for propelling my own wheelchair while intoxicated?”

I sure hope not.  If the Americans with Disabilities Act means anything at all, at the very least, it must mean that our government and police should make efforts to make sure disabled Americans get the same rights and freedoms as everyone else.  And everyone else has the right to get stinkin’ drunk on their own property, crow like a rooster, and wake up with a headache.  The fact that someone is confined to a wheelchair shouldn’t mean that they can never be intoxicated without the fear of DUI charges (remember, as per previous blog posts, that you CAN get a DUI on your own property in Kentucky).  The Marion County in me wants to say "That just ain't right."  My legalese response is, "It is contrary to our basic principles of liberty and equality."

If the question is, "Will a police officer arrest me for propelling my own wheelchair while intoxicated?"  The answer is, "I hope not.  But I just don't know."

The next question, is "Is it against the law to push my own wheelchair while under the influence.”  In order to find out if you would actually be guilty of DUI, again, the definition of "vehicle" will be pretty important to this conversation.  However, in this case, the definition actually helps us out.  In order for you to be guilty of DUI by propelling your own wheelchair while under the influence, your wheelchair would have to be considered a “vehicle.”  And I think we would have a pretty decent argument that a wheelchair is not meant to be an agency for the transportation of people on the public highways of this great Commonwealth of Kentucky, any more than my own legs are.  Bikes are meant for getting you down a road.  Horses might be meant for getting you down a road.  But wheelchairs aren’t meant for the road, just as people who have use of their legs aren’t supposed to walk down the road like crazy people.  We’re supposed to use the sidewalk and alleys.  Only when we have an appropriate “agency” are we supposed to actually travel the roadways.  And a wheelchair is not an appropriate agency for road travel.

That being said, if you are in public, a disabled person can certainly get arrested or cited for Alcohol Intoxication in a Public Place, just like everyone else.  So be careful with the booze, regardless. 

DUI is a serious charge.  You should trust your case to a Louisville DUI lawyer who regularly practices DUI law.  Call the experienced Louisville DUI lawyers at Gruner & Simms, PLLC for a free initial consultation.  The number is 502.618.4949, or you can visit www.grunersimms.com

Results.  As fast as the law will allow.

1 comment:

  1. It's important that Myles cope reads this.

    ReplyDelete