Can You Really get a DUI on a Horse or Bicycle?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The short answer to this question is that sometimes it is possible to get a citation for driving under the influence (DUI) on a horse or a bicycle in the United States. This varies widely from state to state, however, depending on local laws and how a state defines a “vehicle.” As a general rule, it is better to be safe rather than sorry, and people should avoid riding or cycling if they have been consuming alcohol. Depending on regional laws, a DUI on a horse or bicycle can result in hefty fines and the loss of a driver's license.

Inebriated individuals can be charged with public intoxication or reckless conduct.
Inebriated individuals can be charged with public intoxication or reckless conduct.

DUI laws always apply to all motor vehicles, such as cars, motorcycles, and scooters. In some states, someone who gets a DUI while riding a horse can challenge it, arguing that a horse is not a motor vehicle. If the definition of a “vehicle” is sufficiently ambiguous, the court may not uphold the challenge, but if the term is specifically something with a motor, a DUI on a horse will be thrown out of court. The same goes for a bicycle, since a bicycle lacks a motor.

A DUI is a possibility for someone riding a horse while intoxicated.
A DUI is a possibility for someone riding a horse while intoxicated.

A state or region may choose to create laws specifically targeting drunk riders and cyclists, however. In such cases, it is entirely possible to get a DUI on a horse or bicycle, although the punishments may be slightly different than those in a motor vehicle. In a region where a citing officer knows that riding a horse or bicycle after drinking is not illegal, another type of citation may be issued. For example, a drunk cyclist may be charged with reckless conduct, public intoxication, or disturbing the peace.

DUI laws generally apply to all motorized vehicles, including scooters.
DUI laws generally apply to all motorized vehicles, including scooters.

While the idea of a DUI on a horse may seem silly, the main concern from a law enforcement point of view is public safety. Someone riding a horse or bicycle while intoxicated could potentially be a risk to others. Drivers, for example, might get in an accident because of the erratic riding pattern of the drunk individual. In the case of a horse, animal endangerment is also an issue. Several states have documented cases in which a horse died or was severely injured as a result of an intoxicated rider.

The procedure for citing and punishing a DUI on a horse or bicycle is usually the same for that in a motor vehicle. A law enforcement officer stops the rider or cyclist because the officer suspects that the rider may be under the influence. If a test such as a breathalyser indicates that the rider is intoxicated, the officer will issue a citation. In many states, the lawbreaker's license will be immediately revoked, and he or she will have to go to court to get it back. While in court, fines and/or community service may be imposed.

City, town or state governments may pass and enforce laws prohibiting driving a bicycle while drunk.
City, town or state governments may pass and enforce laws prohibiting driving a bicycle while drunk.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon991832

Operating any vehicle that is self propelled? My body is self propelled. Some people refer to the body as a vehicle that my spirit is driving. Is it just illegal to be drunk? Then why do they allow the sale of alcohol? In places where they sell alcohol, they should allow the walking and riding of non motorized vehicles. Just saying.

anon339772

You can in fact be charged with a DUI for operating a "push" motorized lawnmower. This is not always the case, usually if the lawnmower is running and the operator is deemed to have "actual physical control of the vehicle", the officer is very likely to issue a DUI.

anon324634

I did time in a county jail with a dude who got popped for DUI on his horse. He said he was passed out on the horse (which he had trained to take him home on such occasion). Not sure why he was charged with DUI considering the fact he wasn't operating the machine (or in this case, animal).

anon319363

Looks like you cannot get a DUI on a bike or a horse in Arizona.

thestats

yes, a horse, a horse buggy, golf cart, even a wheelchair - all modes of transport -- can be involved in a dui.

anon142464

There was a man in Austin, TX who was arrested for DWI on a horse. The officers said they were concerned about the dangers he could potentially create.

anon90888

What if you're sober, but the horse is drunk?

millhouse

Florida's DUI laws extend to bicycles -- basically anything that is "self-propelled." That means that it doesn't have to have a motor. I suppose a skateboard DUI is possible in Florida too!

stare31

A woman was convicted of a DUI on a horse in Alabama. So there's at least one state where it could happen!

6pack

I know someone who got a DUI (or DWI, I'm not sure) on a golf cart. He also stole the golf cart for his late night joy ride, so that probably didn't help him get out of a conviction!

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