A DUI in a Wheelchair? An Oregon Court’s Not Buying It.
In a case that will have few repercussions in the world of drunk driving, the Oregon Court of Appeals has reversed the conviction of a man convicted of DUI in 2012.
The man in question, James Greene, was driving a motorized wheelchair on a crosswalk when he hit a moving pickup truck. He was found to have been drinking, however, and so was charged with driving under the influence.
A DUI on a motorized wheelchair? It’s happened before. But is it right? Is a person in that particular vehicle a motorist or a pedestrian?
The offender appealed, insisting he was a pedestrian, and a motorized wheelchair does not count as a vehicle. The prosecution says they are vehicles. In fact, wheelchairs are treated as bicycles when ridden in the bike lanes – and bicyclists are subject to DUI laws.
The court, however, sided with Greene. In Oregon, at least, for the present, wheelchairs are only vehicles when driven in bicycle lanes; at other times the drivers (or riders, if you prefer) are pedestrians.
Not every state has gone the way of Oregon. In 2015 the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that a DUI on a mobility scooter was permissible.
There have been arrests and citations for drunk driving on horses, Segways, golf carts, riding mowers… if it has a motor and is a vehicle, chances are someone has driven it drunk and gotten into trouble.
It’s clear that while the defendant in this case was cleared, the lesson of all of these arrests should still apply. You can get seriously hurt – and cause harm to others – by venturing into traffic on any kind of vehicle while drinking. You might be able to evade a DUI in Oregon – though you could face other charges if you harm others while riding a wheelchair drunk – but you can’t evade your responsibility to keep the roadways safe.