DUI charges cover a lot more than operating what might be traditionally thought of as vehicles. There are scenarios where people on bicycles, in broken-down cars and even on horseback can be charged with DUIs. The police have wide powers to charge folks with DUIs, but that isn't the same as being convicted of an offense. How does a DUI defense attorney approach such a case?
Exercising Control of a Vehicle
One of the core concepts in DUI law is the notion that a person must be in a position to exercise control of a vehicle. Generally, this means they must be in the driver's seat of a vehicle that can be immediately operated.
For example, an Illinois DUI attorney was able to defend a case on the basis that her client's car was out of gas at the time. Her boyfriend informed the police that he had driven the car to the spot. Even though she was in the driver's seat and intoxicated and the keys were in the ignition, the case was dismissed because the vehicle could not be operated at that time. She also got a similar case involving a broken-down car dismissed.
Is a Horse or a Bike a Vehicle?
Each state has its own view of when something unusual is not classified as a vehicle. For example, Wisconsin law says you can't be charged with a DUI for being drunk on a bike because its DUI laws explicitly use the term "motor vehicle" and require that the machine be self-propelled. Conversely, in California, there are explicit laws against riding a bicycle while intoxicated. Therefore, a Californian absolutely can be charged with a DUI while using a bike.
In Ohio, a horse probably isn't legally a vehicle if you're riding it. However, when the horse is hooked up to a buggy or a wagon, then the entire assembly becomes a vehicle. Thus, the driver of a buggy can, in fact, be charged with a DUI.
Your Right to the Court's Attention
Regardless of how convinced a police officer is that you did something wrong, you have a legal right to prevail upon the court to dismiss a DUI. It's the state's responsibility to prove you could exercise control of a legally recognized vehicle at the time of an incident. If there are unusual circumstances, you have every right to ask the court to consider them. Reach out to a DUI defense attorney to learn more.