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Drinking and Riding

Howard Kurtz - 8/13/2012

Typically, people think of cars when it comes to DWIs. While driving automobiles are the most common way to get a DWI, you can really drive almost anything and be charged with driving while impaired.

The impaired driving statute uses the term vehicle.  Vehicle is defined as “every vehicle self-propelled” to run on a highway or public area (G.S. 20-4.01(23), 20-138.1).  North Carolina courts have subsequently defined vehicle broadly.  Anything from tractors to golfcarts count as a vehicle and you can be charged with a DWI while driving them.  Don’t count on biking home from the bar either.  Despite the lack of a motor, bicycles also count as a vehicle. If you want to ride a horse home after a few drinks, you are more than welcome to—as long as you follow all other equine laws.  At one point, riding a horse intoxicated above the limit was even illegal, but North Carolina law now specifically states that horses are an exception (G.S. 20-138.1(e)).

There is another exception to the vehicle definition.  The statute specifically deems vehicles used for a person with mobility impairment in order to enhance their mobility to be exempt from DWI charges.  Still, the broad vehicle definition leaves a lot of room for prosecutors to work around, and the North Carolina courts have been willing to interpret any number of transportation devices as vehicles.   It is not uncommon to see people who have lost their license drive a moped.  You don’t need a license for a moped; you just have to make sure your moped meets exact requirements, such as having a max speed of 30 mph.  But keep in mind that driving a moped home from the bar is not a good option either.  You can certainly still be charged with DWI operating a moped.  If you have had a few drinks, and are looking for a way home from the bar, North Carolina law has left you with few options by defining vehicle so broadly.  It looks like riding a horse is your best option.  Otherwise, try calling a friend or a taxi.



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