DUI: Exploring the Meaning of “Vehicle”

by the Phoenix Arizona DUI attorneys at Ariano & Reppucci, PLLC

You can be arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) if you are under the influence of alcohol, a drug, or a drug metabolite with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 0.08% while you are in actual physical control of a vehicle.

A vehicle is defined in Arizona statute as a “device in, on or by which a person or property is or may be transported or drawn on a public highway, excluding devices moved by human power or used exclusively on stationary rails or tracks.” A.R.S. § 28-101(58). While the definition may seem straightforward, it has led to some interesting questions in the DUI arena.

Does a bicycle count as a vehicle?

When you get on a bicycle you are subject to Arizona’s DUI laws, but not implied consent laws.1 While Arizona’s DUI laws do not describe bicycles in its definition of “vehicles, bicyclists are subject to all duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle. A.R.S. § 28-812. Implied consent laws in Arizona apply to motor vehicles, and bicycles are not motor operated. A.R.S. § 28-1321. These laws say that when you get your driver’s license and drive a vehicle, you are impliedly consenting to blood, urine, and breath tests if a police officer pulls you over for probable cause that you are driving impaired. Thus, unless you have a motorized bicycle you should not worry about implied consent laws but you should be worried about DUI laws.

Does an animal count as a vehicle?

Some states have debated whether or not riding on horseback or on another domesticated animal while intoxicated brings you within the purview of DUI laws. While Arizona’s definition of a vehicle does not include animals that you can use for riding, you will always be in the purview of DUI laws if you use roads impaired and put someone in danger.2

While you can always argue that an animal or bicycle is not within the meaning of “vehicle” in Arizona, you are still going to be subject to laws that protect people on motorways. Other states such as Texas and Montana have put out public service announcements or even arrested people for drunk driving when they were intoxicated while riding horses in the city.3 In the Texas case, the charge was reduced to public intoxication because of the complexities with classifying a horse as a “vehicle.”4 In Arizona, if you were charged with a DUI while riding a horse or a bicycle you would have a strong argument that neither of these count as “vehicles.” Arizona statutes specifically says items moved by human power do not count as vehicles. A.R.S. § 28-101(58).

Another issue with classifying a horse or a bicycle as a vehicle is the fact that they are not motorized and could not comply easily with the ignition interlock device (IID) that is required once you are prosecuted with a DUI. You need to install an IID into your vehicle if you were arrested for a DUI and had your license suspended or revoked.5 This device is attached to your motor vehicle’s ignition system and you must breathe into it so the device can determine whether you are impaired or not.6 Obviously, if you are arrested for a DUI on a non-motorized “vehicle” or animal and have your license suspended, it would be difficult to comply with the IID requirement.

If you find yourself in a situation where you were arrested for a DUI while riding a bicycle, a horse, or another animal, you should contact an experienced Arizona DUI attorney. Your attorney will be able to come up with your best defenses against such a charge.

[1] BUI – Bicycling Under The Influence, azbikelaw.org (Oct. 29, 2007), http://azbikelaw.org/blog/bui-bicycling-under-the-influence/.

2 Can You Get A DUI On A Horse Or Bicycle?, dmcantor.com, http://dmcantor.com/blog/can-you-get-a-dui-on-a-horse-or-bicycle (last visited Dec. 8, 2014).

3 Does Drunk Horse-Riding Merit A DUI?, theweek.com (Jan. 18, 2011), http://theweek.com/article/index/211165/does-drunk-horse-riding-merit-a-dui.

4 Id.

5 Ignition Interlock Laws In Arizona, lifesaver.com, http://www.lifesafer.com/arizona/ignition-interlock-laws/ (last visited Dec. 11, 2014).

6 Arizona Driving Under The Influence (DUI) Laws: Ignition Interlock Device, azleg.gov (Dec. 12, 2013), http://www.azleg.gov/briefs/Senate/DUI_IGNITION%20INTERLOCK%20DEVICE.pdf.