Just a few months ago I brought you a story about how one Minnesota man had his drunk driving charges dismissed after the Minnesota Court of Appeals found that a Segway was not considered a motor vehicle under state law. Though a Segway may not qualify, a new case is testing the limits of that definition.
The case involves a man who was arrested in Lakeville, MN earlier this month. The man stands accused of driving drunk on an electric scooter. Police say that they received a call late at night from someone who wanted to report that a man on a scooter had hit a parked car. Police have not released details about the specifications of the scooter, other than that the scooter was powered by gasoline.
When police arrived at the scene of the accident, they located the 46-year-old man who was swaying back and forth next to the scooter. He appeared intoxicated to the officers on the scene and admitted to having consumed two vodka-based drinks. He denied ever riding the scooter, another detail that police officials have not yet responded to.
The police administered a breathalyzer test to the suspect at the scene and discovered that he had a BAC of 0.19. He was then arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree DWI, a felony under Minnesota law. If the defendant is convicted, he faces up to seven years behind bars and a fine of up to $14,000, no small matter for someone who is accused of driving a scooter. A spokesperson for the local police department says that the defendant has been convicted of drunk driving and had his license revoked for other alcohol violation four separate times since 2005.
A similar issue has arisen before, in 2011, when the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that a handicapped person who relied on a motorized disability scooter to get around could not be found guilty of DWI despite operating the scooter with a BAC above legal limits. In that case, the Court of Appeals overturned the conviction of James Brown who had been charged with drunk driving his scooter down the sidewalks of Grand Rapids. The Court of Appeals decided the scooter, which topped out at six miles per hour, was not a motor vehicle, in part because a driver’s license is not required to operate it.
Exactly what kind of scooter was in use in this case has not yet been revealed, which may differentiate the current case from Brown’s. However, other states including Florida, allow scooters that go as fast as 20 miles per hour to fall under the classification for a “low speed electric bike” and thus do not require a license to operate. In fact, one company in Clearwater has begun marketing the electric bikes as “DUI scooters” and has appealed to those who have had their licenses suspended because of alcohol charges. The company says the bikes represent the perfect legal way for drunk drivers to continue to get around without the benefit of a driver’s license.
For more information on what may be defined as a motor vehicle and other information about DWI related matters, feel free to contact us.Google+