Drunk man on a scooter can’t be charged with drunk driving, court says

If you are physically disabled and rely on a motorized scooter to get around, can you be charged with drunk driving if you become intoxicated?

“No,” the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled today, overturning the conviction of James Brown Jr., who was charged while driving his scooter on the sidewalks of Grand Rapids in July 2009.

He drove his scooter , which has a top speed of about 6 mph, to a car dealership, which called the police.

But the court ruled that it’s not a motor vehicle. A driver’s license isn’t required to operate it, you can’t register one in Minnesota, and the law bans it from roadways under most conditions.

“Because Brown’s scooter is not a ‘vehicle’ under the relevant statutory definitions, it is not a ‘motor vehicle.’ And Brown is not a ‘driver’ because when he uses his scooter, he is not driving or in physical control of a vehicle,’” the court said. (Full opinion here)

  • David

    “A driver’s license isn’t required to operate it, you can’t register one in Minnesota, and the law bans it from roadways under most conditions.”

    Yet didn’t a person get a DUI for driving a chair? Also, the same can be said of lawnmowers and it seems at least one person on a lawnmower gets a DUI each summer.

  • jon

    So bicycles don’t require registration, or a operators license… does that mean I can’t get a DUI on one of them?

    (my understanding of the law is that you can, when operating on a road, on bicycle paths and side walks, you can only get a drunk and dis-orderly.)

  • Jim Shapiro

    Perhaps we should recognize that judges are just glorified lawyers. And remember what Shakespeare said about lawyers. :-)

  • Octavius

    Probably the relevant statutory definitions are the following from MN Statute 169.011, which would seem to mean that the gentleman in question is riding/driving a vehicle, but not a motor vehicle. Those with an understanding of just how DUI law applies to these situations may wish to opine further as regards.

    Subd. 42.Motor vehicle.

    “Motor vehicle” means every vehicle which is self-propelled and every vehicle which is propelled by electric power obtained from overhead trolley wires. Motor vehicle does not include an electric personal assistive mobility device or a vehicle moved solely by human power.

    Subd. 92.Vehicle.

    “Vehicle” means every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, excepting devices used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.

    Note: A previous court case in MN found a rollerblader skating on a county road to be operating a vehicle, and subject to the rules of operating a vehicle on a public thoroughfare.

  • DGloria

    I think the key difference here would be choice. The article states the person relied on this to get around which is different than choosing to get on a bicycle, etc.