Archive for January, 2011

DUI Charges – Scope of DUI Law Tested After Two Men are Arrested for Riding a Mule and a Horse While Drunk

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Efforts to increase prosecution of drunk drivers has led to some incredible actions by lawmakers, prosecutors and police.  A recent example of this—one that has been getting the attention of every DWI defense lawyer—is the arrest of two men who in the state of Texas on DUI.

When law enforcement officials stopped the two men, one was riding a horse and the other was riding a mule. Upon questioning, the man on the mule apparently admitted to drinking vodka prior to riding the animal.  Nonetheless, both of the men and their animals were seized by the police and the men were charged with drunk driving offenses.  The officers on the scene interpreted the statutory definition of a vehicle to include the horse and mule, and therefore used that reasoning in arresting the two men. However, the charges were eventually dismissed because the court established that mules and horses are not within the statutory definition of a motor vehicle.

In Michigan, the question of what is a motor vehicle has been dealt with extensively in the legal system by both top DWI defense lawyers and prosecutors alike. Michigan drunk driving charges are frequently brought for people driving cars, motorcycles, boats, and off-road recreational vehicles such as quads and snowmobiles. As seen by the example above, however, it is clear that prosecutors are trying to charge people with drunk driving crimes, even when not driving a motorized vehicle.

Michigan lawmakers have also demonstrated a willingness to expand drunk driving laws in ways that are illogical. For example, a Michigan driver arrested but not yet convicted of OWI charges will have their license confiscated.  But, it is against the US Constitution to punish people who have not yet been convicted of crimes. As an experienced Michigan DUI attorney, it seems illegal to take away the driver’s license and then immediately supply the driver with a new license which has all of the same rights and privileges as the one that was just taken away (but does not have a photograph).

Another example of the expansive way in which Michigan legislators have treated drunk driving law is the question of what constitutes “operating.” Michigan law criminalizes operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.  However, many people in Michigan have been prosecuted for “sleeping it off” in their car when they chose not to drive drunk and were exercising good judgment. Several individuals have also been prosecuted in Michigan for driving on their own property when that property is open to the public, even if the driver never enters the roadway. Arrests on this basis would cite the part of Michigan drunk driving law which prohibits driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs on “a highway open to the public or generally accessible to motor vehicles.”

While Michigan prosecutors may not be so quick to file a case where the driver is riding a horse or a mule, there are plenty of  bizarre circumstances under which police and prosecutors are willing to bring charges.  Anyone charged with a drunk driving offense in Michigan should retain an experienced DWI defense attorney to assist him or her with an aggressive defense of their case.