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Go Green, Avoid a DWI...Maybe

The recent story about the fella in Minn


20 November 2009
Criminal & DUI/DWI Law

The recent story about the fella in Minnesota that got a DWI for driving his motorized “La-Z-Boy” chair brings to mind a good point regarding DWI law (The Smoking Gun news story about Minnesota man getting a DWI / DUI while on a La-Z-Boy).  What kind of “vehicle” do I have to be driving to be convicted of a DWI or DUI in Arkansas?

Arkansas law makes it a crime for a person to drive a “motor vehicle” while being intoxicated (or, for a DUI, under the influence) or while having a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher.  The problem is that “motor vehicle” is not defined by Arkansas’ DWI statute.

In 1993, for the first time, the Arkansas Supreme Court was faced with the issue of deciding what “motor vehicle” means.  Basically, the Court concluded that “motor vehicle” means “a self-propelled wheeled conveyance that does not run on rails.”

Therefore, one could reasonably conclude that a vehicle that does not generate the power to move itself cannot be considered to be a “motor vehicle,” and you can operate it no matter how hammered you are.

However, there aren’t many vehicles that don’t propel themselves through some sort of conversion of a fuel source (i.e. gasoline, solar energy, electricity, etc.).  I guess this means that you could even get a DWI by riding around on a lawnmower, your child’s battery-powered “big wheel,” or, yes, even a motorized La-Z-Boy.

In case you’re wondering, it does look like bicycles, horses, land yachts, soapbox derby cars, and piggy-back riding are still legal.  However, I would advise wearing headgear, especially if you’re drunk.

BJW