It might be surprising to find out that getting a DUI riding a horse or even a lawnmower is possible, depending on where you live. While in other states riding home from a bar after knocking back a few bourbons is actively encouraged!
It’s possible to get a DUI on a horse in states like Kentucky, California, North Carolina, and potentially Florida. However, most state DUI laws only refer to motorized vehicles. Thus, drunk horse riders may only be charged with disorderly behavior, public drunkenness, and animal endangerment.
While riding your horse after a long night on the town might not sound like a big deal, doing so can get you into hot water if you live in certain states. So, if you want to know whether you can safely drink and ride – read on!
Why You Can Get A DUI Riding A Horse In Certain States
Even though most DUI laws pertain to operating motor vehicles while intoxicated. You can still be arrested in certain states and charged with a DUY if your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) percentage exceeds the legal limit.
However, it is essential to point out that most DUI horse-related arrests occur where the rider poses a danger to themselves or others. An example of this includes riding a horse drunk on a freeway or causing a public disturbance with reckless behavior.
So, even if your state does not recognize horses as vehicles, you can still be arrested if you behave recklessly, and a Breathalyzer test proves that your BAC level is excessively high.
States Where You Can Get A DUI Riding On A Horse
Only a few states have DUI laws that specifically include horseback riding. In these states, the penalties can be severe if found guilty, and you can incur jail time or significant fines.
So, here is a list of states with stringent DUI laws that could get you into lots of trouble or on the wrong side of the law.
Kentucky DUI Law
Kentucky is synonymous with the finest bourbon, bluegrass, and horses. Thus, it’s logical to assume that riding a horse on public roads while intoxicated is not uncommon.
This state has some of the most stringent DUI laws. It will prosecute or fine any horseback rider apprehended on public roads while drunk.
But it does not end there, as anyone, even people who use wheelchairs, can be prosecuted for being drunk in public.
Some legal experts would argue that referring to a horse as a vehicle in Kentucky’s DUI law is a stretch too far. However, it is still seen as a criminal offense.
North Carolina DUI Law
The court ruled against a rider in the State v. Dellinger case who was apprehended riding drunk on a public road in 1985 with a blood alcohol level that exceeded the state’s legal limit.
Like in other states with DUI laws, all public road users are required to be sober when operating a vehicle or riding a horse.
While there have been several attempts to amend North Carolina’s DWI laws and remove the definition of horses as vehicles, none of them were successful.
California DUI Law
Besides having various stringent laws to safeguard horses, California’s Vehicle Code Section 21050 stipulates that all horseback riders comply with vehicle-related sobriety requirements.
In 2018 a white steed horseback rider was arrested and prosecuted for riding his horse on the freeway for being under the influence as his blood alcohol content (BAC) was .021in contravention of the California DWI code.
Florida DUI Law
Florida’s comprehensive DUI law defines a vehicle as any device or vehicle used to transport people and property on the highway. This includes a bicycle, ATV, golf cart, and, yes, you guessed right, a horse!
Law enforcement had arrested offenders before, like the intoxicated horseback rider arrested on a highway, initially on a DUI charge in 2017. Her blood alcohol level was staggeringly twice over the legal limit.
However, Florida law technically does not consider a horse to be a device or a vehicle. Therefore, the arrested woman was also charged with animal endangerment, culpable negligence, and disorderly intoxication. So, the Florida DUI law is a bit of a grey area.
You Cannot Get A DUI On A Horse In These States
While the following states do not have DUI laws explicitly referring to being inebriated on horses. Intoxicated horseback riders can still be charged with public drunkenness, animal cruelty, disorderly conduct, and endangering others.
With drinking and horseback riding being popular activities in Louisiana, it’s ironic that the state’s DUI law does not prohibit a combination of the two!
It is only illegal to operate a motor vehicle, watercraft, aircraft, or vessel with a blood alcohol content (BAC) percentage that exceeds the state’s legal limits for those under and over 21.
So, when a Baton Rouge policeman spotted a man riding his horse on the highway following a few daiquiris, he could only be charged with public drunkenness and not a DUI.
Like Florida, Colorado’s DUI law is complex. Intoxicated riders can technically not be prosecuted under the state’s DUI statutes like they would driving a motor vehicle. However, they can be arrested under another law for riding an animal drunk.
Colorado’s DUI law mainly refers to driving a motor vehicle while inebriated or under the influence of drugs.
Like the previously mentioned states, Michigan DUI statutes mainly refer to driving a motor vehicle while inebriated.
Michigan’s DUI law does define a horse as a vehicle. However, drunk horseback riders can only be charged with disorderly conduct or public drunkenness offenses if they are apprehended on a public road.
The state’s DUI laws only refer to operating motorized forms of transport like cars, motorcycles, trucks, aircraft, and motorboats, not horseback riding. However, police officers are not always aware of that fact.
Two intoxicated men were caught riding a horse and a mule in Austin. Subsequently, they were both arrested under DUI charges. These eventually had to be dropped as horses are not motor vehicles.
Believe it or not, it is legal to ride a horse, bicycle, or wheelchair while drunk in Montana. This is as the Montana Code 61-1-101 (84)(a), DUI law only pertains to vehicles that are not powered by animals.
In fact, the Montana Department of Transportation launched a controversial advertisement with a horse tied in front of a bar to encourage patrons to touse a horse instead of a motor vehicle after drinking.
The Washington state DUI law only refers to operating self-propelled and electric-powered vehicles while intoxicated.
Thus, while drunk horseback riders cannot be charged with DUI offenses, they can still be prosecuted for cruelty to animals or public drunkenness crimes.
Like all the previously mentioned states, Tennessee’s DUI laws only refer to operating a motorized vehicle.
Although that does not mean that a “drunken cowboy” can get away scot-free, as the punishment for riding a horse in an inebriated state is as severe as any DUI penalties.
Tennessee is also one of the few places where you can even get a DUI for cutting your grass or riding on your lawnmower after too many “cold ones.” This is due to the Tennessee Code’s section 55-10-402, tested in the State v. Freels case and found to be legally sound. So, it’s wise to stick to iced tea!
Can You Get A DUI Driving a Horse-Drawn Buggy?
In some states like Pennsylvania, where horse-drawn buggies are often used on roadways, they are classified as vehicles and operating them while intoxicated is a serious offense. This offense could land you in jail or stuck with a hefty fine.
Although in certain regions, you might only get a slap on the wrist from a police officer, as horse-drawn buggies are not classified as vehicles. They are not powered by motors and are not subject to DUI laws.
So, it would be wise to leave your horse-drawn buggy at home if you are heading to a bar. Driving it while intoxicated can lead to a potentially fatal crash and a nasty criminal record in some states.
What You Need To Do If Charged With A DUI On A Horse
A DUI charge, even on a horse, is a serious matter that could land you in jail. Thus, hiring an experienced defense lawyer who knows all the “tricks of the trade” would be wise.
Suppose your blood alcohol content (BAC) level is not far higher than your state’s legal limit. In that case, your defense lawyer could submit a plea bargain to settle on paying a fine or a lesser charge.
An experienced defense lawyer may also argue that the driving-under-the-influence charges are entirely unjustified. This is because your horse knew its way home, and you were simply an intoxicated passenger, not a driver.
Even if none of the previously mentioned strategies prevail in court, a seasoned defense lawyer might be able to negotiate a more advantageous plea bargain with the district attorney.
However, there are no guarantees, so best stay on the right side of the law!
Contrary to belief, getting a DUI on a horse or while driving a horse-drawn buggy on freeways in certain states is possible. For example, in Kentucky, California, and North Carolina, if your blood alcohol content level is above the legal limit, you may face severe repercussions.
So, think twice if you think it might be fun to ride home on your favorite steed after downing a few whiskeys. Especially if you want to avoid singing jailhouse blues and paying for an expensive defense lawyer, be on your best behavior!