Being drunk on wheels is never a good idea, but can you be slapped with a DUI for being drunk in a wheelchair? It may sound ludicrous, but the answer is typically yes.
Case in point: A disabled Ohio man was found swerving in his motorized wheelchair on a road about a mile from his home, the New York Daily News reported this week. Donald Law, 44, was charged with a misdemeanor OVI (operating a vehicle under the influence).
Here's what you need to know about wheelchair DUIs:
Don't Need a Car to Get a DUI
Although most DUI charges stem from being drunk while operating a car, you can easily get any of the following DUIs without one:
- Boat DUI. Ahoy there drunky, even the legally savvy Erin Brockovich was slapped with one of these.
- Bike DUI. California in particular has cracked down on drunken cyclists, though it hasn't deterred anyone from holding a beer on their handlebars during mass public cycling gatherings like Critical Mass.
- Horse DUI. Horses don't even have wheels (for now) but you can still get a DUI in some states for riding one while drunk.
The basic elements in all of these non-car DUI cases is that a person was above the legal drinking limit (0.08 percent BAC) and on/in/operating something that was moving. However, you can even get a DUI when you're parked and sleeping it off.
Wheelchair DUIs Aren't Hypothetical
Perhaps surprisingly, the recent wheelchair OVI incident in Ohio isn't unique.
Ask Raymound Kulma, 55, who landed his seventh DUI by piloting a stolen motorized wheelchair; his BAC was three times the legal limit. In a separate incident, a 63-year-old Pennsylvania woman was also charged for DUI while riding her motorized wheelchair around a mobile home park at 4 a.m., reports PennLive.
Pennsylvania's laws, like many other states, have broad definitions of "driving" under the influence. In these states, you may receive a DUI so long as you are in "physical control" of a vehicle and too impaired to safely control that vehicle.
That means that operating or being in control of a wheelchair -- motorized or not -- while drunk can be grounds for a DUI arrest.
Are Wheelchair DUIs Discriminatory?
For those individuals who need wheelchairs to move from place to place, a wheelchair DUI may seem like malarkey -- especially when other drunk individuals can legally walk (or stumble) home.
The Americans with Disabilities Act prevents government discrimination based on disability, and unequal treatment from wheelchair DUIs might qualify.
But short of hiring a civil rights attorney, a better strategy for avoiding wheelchair DUIs is to not operate a wheelchair while impaired.
- Wheelchair-Bound Cat Violated Leash Law: Fla. Authorities (FindLaw's Legally Weird)
- Segway DUI? Not in Minnesota, Court Rules (FindLaw's Legally Weird)
- DUI by Horse & Buggy: Again, Just about Any Vehicle Counts (FindLaw's Legally Weird)
- Browse DUI / DWI Lawyers by Location (FindLaw)