Man Caught Drunk Driving Stolen Motor Home Wasn’t Drunk

Police have some pretty reliable indicators of drunk driving. If they see someone who obviously can’t control their vehicle on the road, chances are that driver is impaired.

There is an exception, and it showed up in the Saugus neighborhood of Santa Clarita, California not long ago. A report came in about a “suspected drunk driver” in a motor home. When police caught up with him, it turned out he wasn’t drunk.

Then why was he having such trouble controlling the vehicle?

The answer came pretty quickly. A report came in about a stolen motor home. So the driver in question had just boosted a vehicle that he plainly didn’t know how to drive. That’s more or less how a drunk driver looks, which is why a witness mistook the thief for a DUI.

It was a rare instance in which property was recovered before it was even put in the system as stolen.

Drunk Driving vs. Inept Driving – Which is Worse?

So the man escaped a DUI charge. Is he better off? When any property worth over $950 is stolen, that’s grand theft. Prosecutors have pretty wide discretion in such cases. A stolen motor home could garner either a misdemeanor or felony grand theft charge.

The difference is the amount of jail time – up to a year for misdemeanor, up to three for grand theft.

DUI, on the other hand, is generally a misdemeanor, unless you have three prior offenses on your record, or unless you caused injury or death in the course of driving while intoxicated. A first DUI offense entails fines and other penalty assessments. After 2019 it will also entail a mandatory ignition interlock. Currently Santa Clarita does not have a mandatory interlock program for first DUI offenders.

So we’ll add to our usual don’t-drink-and-drive message a warning not to steal a motor home that you can’t drive, lest you be mistaken for someone who’s drunk behind the wheel. You’re still endangering others on the road, and what’s more, you might be leaving someone homeless.