A Minnesota State Court of Appeals recently ruled that a two wheeled motorized transit machine called a “Segway” was more like a pedestrian than a “vehicle” for purposes of Minnesota’s DUI law, thereby throwing out a DUI charge against Mark Greenman, a two time contestant of the Segway DUI challenge. The Minnesota court ruled that a Segway, having a top speed of only 15 miles per hour, makes it much more like a human being and their movement than that of a car or other device considered to be a vehicle under Minnesota law. A common misconception just about anywhere you go is that one cannot get a DUI on a “device” that isn’t propelled by some type of motor, be it gas or electric. Because DUI is most often prosecuted in a State court, laws vary by state and some probably do adopt this notion. Florida may be a bit vague on this issue. Our Tampa criminal attorneys have long felt that Florida is very much a “Police State,” enacting and enforcing laws that reap a financial benefit for the State more so than those laws aim to punish. In Florida one can get a DUI on a bicycle, State v. Howard, 510 So.2d 612 (Fla. 3d DCA 1987), a lawnmower, while simply sitting in your car with keys nearby, on an ATV, or any other “device” considered a vehicle. Rest assured the definition is a broad one so as to encompass as many objects into the “vehicle” umbrella as possible. So what about a Segway? Electric Personal Assistance Mobility Devices are described in Florida Statute 316.003(83) as essentially being segways. Further, this section explicitly excludes them from being a “vehicle,” an issue very relevant for purposes of DUI in Florida. From the look of it, if the segway fits the description under this Statute, you likely are excluded from a DUI charge. Where this could get sticky is if there is a tandem wheel segway produced or ridden and the thing goes over 20 miles per hour.
In Florida in order to prove that one was driving under the influence contrary to Florida Statute 316.193, it must proven that the following two elements existed beyond a reasonable doubt:
1. Someone drove or was in actual physical control of a vehicle.
2. While driving or in actual physical control of the vehicle, the individual was either;
a. under the influence of alcoholic beverages and/or a chemical substance and/or a controlled substance to the extent that his or her normal faculties were impaired.
b. had a blood/breath-alcohol level of .08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood/210 liters of breath.
As applicable to this blog, in order to get a DUI in Tampa not only must the above listed elements be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the individual being charged with a DUI must be shown to be driving or in actual physical control of a “vehicle” as defined in Florida Statute 316.003(75). A vehicle under Florida Statute is defined as any device in or upon by which a person or property may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except for devices travelling on stationary rails or tracks. In other words, ride a bike in Florida after one too many drinks and you may earn a trip to the hole. Cruise through town on your new freight train while three sheets to the wind and technically under 316.193 and 316.003 you’re good to go. Weird.
In my humble opinion and in most of my friends that are Tampa DUI lawyers‘ opinions, DUI in Florida is a cash cow for the State. From the impoundment fees, cost of supervision, court costs, and other dated and odd penalties involved with DUI, it just seems to be overkill for the financial benefit of the State. Lastly, I believe Minnesota got this one right. While there is a need to frustrate drunk driving, allowing a statute to encompass a bicycle and be a little vague on a Segway while excepting a train is odd to me. No doubt there is another statute to prevent “drunken training” but to exclude it from the Florida DUI statute is odd. At the end of the day the theme of this article is to err on the side of caution. If it’s in doubt as to whether you should drive or control what could be considered a vehicle, do yourself a favor and call a cab. If you don’t, call me.
Jason Mayberry is a Federal and State criminal defense lawyer with offices in Hillsborough and Pinellas County. Our practice spans the Tampa Bay area and we’re available for a free consultation at 813-444-7435 or 727-771-3847.