Recently on our legal forum a user asked, I read the other day that the state police in Pennsylvania arrested an Amish man for DUI while he was riding his horse. I am confused. I thought you had to be operating a motorized vehicle to be charged with driving under the influence (DUI)? Is this man going to be charged with a criminal offense?
What is driving under the influence in (DUI) in Pennsylvania?
Drivers in the State of Pennsylvania may not drive, operate or be in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle after imbibing a sufficient amount of alcohol such that the individual is rendered incapable of safely driving, operating or being in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle.
Furthermore, Pennsylvania DUI laws under Pennsylvania Vehicle Code Section 102 define a vehicle as Every device in, upon or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except devices used exclusively upon rails or tracks.
Under this definition the courts have further defined a vehicle to include not only cars and trucks but also trikes, mopeds, scooters, and dirt bikes. Bicycles can also be considered motorized vehicles when they are operating on the public roadway.
Is a horse a vehicle in Pennsylvania?
Although Pennsylvania laws do address horse drawn vehicles and horses within Pennsylvania statutes, specifically stating the following, "[e]very person riding an animal or driving any animal-drawn vehicle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this part, except those provisions of this part which by their very nature can have no application or where specifically provided otherwise." (75 Pa.C.S.A. 3103)
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Commonwealth v. Noel decided that the authorizing statute (law) (75 PS 3103) was unconstitutionally vague and did not provide enough information to arrest a rider on horseback and charge him with driving under the influence (DUI).
The Supreme Courts decision rests on the notion that laws must be written clearly and specifically enough that people have an understanding of what conduct is considered criminal and whether or not their actions are illegal.
Possible charges if drunk while riding a horse?
Now, just because you cannot be arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) while riding a horse while intoxicated does not mean that you have not committed a crime. In fact, if you are riding a horse on the roadway you could be charged with public drunkenness. And while this is not a DUI traffic violation, if convicted, you could face up to 90 days in jail and be forced to pay $500 in fines. Subsequent arrests could also allow for higher fines and penalties.
What is I am arrested for DUI?
If you are arrested for driving under the influence in Pennsylvania this is a serious criminal offense and you should immediately contact a DUI lawyer.