The Exact Language Of The DUI/DWI Statute In Your State Can Make A Difference In How You Can Be Charged
It's probably not surprising that people make some questionable decisions when they're intoxicated. What does surprise a lot of people is that they can get arrested for driving something other than their car or truck while intoxicated. A recent situation in Wyoming shows why it pays to know the exact language of the DUI/DWI laws in your state—because what you don't know can land you behind bars.
The term "vehicle" is often purposefully vague.
Wyoming's DUI statute takes great care to define terms like "alcohol concentration" and "controlled substance." Even things like "child passenger" and "conviction" are carefully defined—which makes it possible for issues surrounding those subjects to be challenged in court when defending a DUI case.
However, one term that isn't defined so carefully is the word "vehicle," and that's not an unusual thing in most state laws—precisely because of incidents like what happened this past October when a 49-year-old woman decided to use an industrial forklift to move her own van from her driveway. While the news doesn't say exactly why she chose to use the forklift to move her van, it's possible that she knew driving a car, truck, SUV, or van while inebriated was illegal but didn't realize that the vague wording of the law makes it just as illegal to drive a forklift as well.
Strangely enough, that isn't the only DUI involving a forklift seen in 2016. In May, an Alaskan man took police on a slow-speed chase after he drunkenly used a forklift to try to retrieve a truck he'd wrecked. Alaska's statute specifies that it's illegal to operate "vehicles, aircraft, or watercraft" while under the influence but leaves those terms open for interpretation.
It may not even matter if you're on an actual road or even driving.
A Zamboni driver in Minnesota was charged with a DUI even though he wasn't driving on an actual road because the DUI laws don't require that factor for an arrest and conviction. This is also similar to many state laws, which often trip up unsuspecting individuals. You can be arrested even if your car is in a parking lot, your own driveway, or pulled off at a rest stop.
Similarly, you can be arrested even if you are in possession of the keys of the vehicle, even if the vehicle isn't on, and you aren't in the passenger seat. Many people have been shocked to find themselves arrested after choosing to sleep off their last couple drinks in the parking lot of a bar. The possibility of that sort of arrest depends entirely on the wording of the statute in your state.
If you've run into unexpected trouble with the DUI/DWI laws in your state, contact a criminal defense attorney form a firm like Alexander & Associates, P.C. as soon as possible. Even cases that seem like a "slam dunk" to a layperson can be challenged based on technical issues like the wording of the statute, its intended meaning, procedural issues, and more.