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This is What Happens When You Get a Wheelchair DUI

A DUI in a motorized wheelchair? The notion sounds too bizarre to be true, but it happens. Many states' laws specify that you don't have to drive a car to be charged with driving under the influence. Driving a boat, a motorized wheelchair, a bicycle, or even riding a horse qualifies in this type of misdemeanor. For example, police arrested an Amish man asleep in his horse-drawn carriage in Pennsylvania for a DUI in 2009.

The exact details of these laws vary from state to state, but the main idea is the same: if you are operating and controlling your mode of transportation while drunk, you could be subject to DUI charges.

Take this motorized wheelchair DUI case, for example. A man in Newport, Oregon was charged with a DUI after he hit the side of a truck in 2012 with his motorized wheelchair while he was crossing the street in a crosswalk. At trial, his defense attorney challenged the drunk driving charge with a motion, claiming that his defendant was a pedestrian and not a driver. The motion was denied and the man was convicted.

During an appellate trial in December 2016, a three-judge panel unanimously reversed the lower court's decision. Writing for the court, one judge said: "We conclude that a person using a motorized wheelchair under circumstances in which the person is a pedestrian for purposes of the vehicle code is not subject to the DUI statutes."

What can we take away from this? When it comes to drunk driving charges in vehicles that aren't standard trucks or cars, some prosecutions do make sense. But in cases where the charge has no real benefit to public safety, a DUI is arguably an overreach.

If you have been charged with a DUI from any method of transportation, contacting a skilled defense attorney to help you is recommended.

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Robert D. DiDio
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