Can you get a DUI on horseback?

Written By: Jaspers, Moriarty & Walburg, P.A. | Published On: 20th January 2011

Authored by Jim Conway

The state of Montana has recently released a public service announcement to curb drunk driving in that state.  The video depicts a man on horseback riding home from the bar and contrasts that with a man in his car pulled over by police officers.

0 Can you get a DUI on horseback?

Based on Montana law, the definition of a “vehicle” specifically excludes animal-powered forms of transportation, and the DUI law specifically references that definition.

Well, what about Minnesota?  A DUI in Minnesota is defined as driving, operating or being in physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence, see Minn. Stat. § 169A.20.  The DUI statute specifically references the definition of a motor vehicle, 

“Motor vehicle” means every vehicle that is self-propelled and every vehicle that is propelled by electric power obtained from overhead trolley wires. The term includes motorboats in operation and off-road recreational vehicles, but does not include a vehicle moved solely by human power.”

Unlike the Montana statute, animal powered vehicles are not specifically excluded from the statututory definition, but they are not included specifically either.  The question becomes “is an animal-powered vehicle a ‘motor vehicle’ and is it ‘self-propelled’ under the statutory definition?  I think that plainly a horse has no motor, and therefore cannot be a motor vehicle.  Further, if you have been around an ornery horse before, they are anything but self-propelled. Therefore, horses or carriages drawn by horses are probobly not included in the definition of a motor vehicle, and therefore if you ride a horse drunk, you probobly can’t be convicted of a DUI. The Minnesota DUI statute also specifically allows for human-powered vehicles as an exception to what a “motor vehicle” includes.  Therefore, you can’t get a DUI for riding a bicycle drunk.  That’s not to say it is a good idea to ride a horse or bicycle drunk, or it doesn’t violate another law (public intoxication) but you can’t get a DUI for it.

If you forgot to ride your horse or bicycle to the bar and got pulled over for a DUI, give the attorneys at JMW a call at 952-445-2817.

Comments? Email Jim Conway