Can You Be Charged with DWI While Riding a Horse?
A woman in Florida was recently charged with driving under the influence of alcohol for riding her horse near a busy highway while allegedly intoxicated. Such stories gain public attention because they are unusual. They also bring into question what qualifies as a DUI, or Texas’ preferred term of driving while intoxicated. For instance, Texas police arrested two men in 2011 for riding a horse and mule down a street while legally intoxicated. They were initially charged with DWI, but the charge was later reduced to public intoxication. Texas law is ambiguous regarding how to charge people who are using non-motorized transportation while intoxicated.
Riding While Intoxicated
Texas law clearly defines DWI incidents as involving motorized vehicles, which may include cars, trucks, motorcycles, motor boats and aircrafts. However, there are other means of transportation that do not involve motors, such as:
- Riding a bicycle;
- Riding an animal;
- Operating an animal-drawn carriage; or
- Paddling a small boat.
Some states specifically include non-motorized transportation as a qualifying vehicle in DWI charges. Because Texas law lacks such language, a defendant can rightfully argue that a DWI charge does not apply if he or she was not operating a motor vehicle.
Reported incidents of horseback riding or bicycling while intoxicated are less common than DWI. The activities are usually recreational and occur in areas where police may not be looking for intoxicated individuals. Because prosecutors are less familiar with these incidents, they may assume that they can charge the defendant with DWI. Upon further review of the law, the DWI charge can often be reduced to public intoxication. A conviction on a public intoxication charge results in a fine of not more than $500. By contrast, a DWI conviction can result in a larger fine, suspension of the offender's driver’s license and possible jail time. A defendant would much rather face a public intoxication charge, but aggravating factors can make the charge more serious, such as:
- Animal endangerment if riding an animal while intoxicated;
- Public endangerment due to reckless behavior;
- Child endangerment if a child was accompanying the defendant; and
- Any personal injuries or property damage caused by the incident.
You can likely avoid any DWI charges if you were arrested for operating a non-motorized vehicle while allegedly intoxicated. However, this may not stop prosecutors from trying to charge you with DWI. A San Antonio DWI defense attorney at the Law Offices of Sam H. Lock will contest any invalid DWI charges made against you. To schedule a free consultation, call 888-726-5625.