DWI on a Scooter
By Bill Powers, Co-Author of the NC DWI Quick Reference Guide and Contributing Author of Teddy’s North Carolina DWI Trial Notebook (2018)
In case you haven’t noticed, Charlotte NC has joined places like New York, Boston, and San Francisco in reflecting the ultimate indicator of hipsterdom: Sidewalks littered with electric scooters.
Thanks to Lime, Bird, and Spin, you can roll through uptown Charlotte, visit local pubs, and imbibe to your heart’s content, all without the hassle of parking or waiting for UBER. What you may not realize is that you can also get arrested for DWI ON A SCOOTER.
That’s because of some pretty harsh NC DWI laws and an expansive definition of a vehicle in North Carolina. For years DWI defense lawyers advised clients the “drunk driving” and “drunken driving laws” did not apply to horses, bicycles, or lawnmowers.
That is no longer the case.
As the impaired driving laws have changed in North Carolina, so have the legal standards of impairment and the type of “vehicles” that can end up with a DWI arrest. Once referred to as DUI in North Carolina (driving under the influence), the legal nomenclature has advanced to DWI or Driving While Impaired or subject to an impairing substance.
NC DUI charges were traditionally thought to involve alcohol or being under the influence of alcohol. That changed, allowing arrest and prosecution for DWI and impairment by substances other than just alcohol.
Today, driving while impaired in North Carolina may include the use of both legal and illegal substances, including lawfully prescribed medications such as Xanax, Oxycontin and Oxycodone, alcoholic beverages, and/or a combination of all those impairing substances.
Make no mistake, DWI charges in North Carolina are serious criminal charges. And while they are normally categorized as misdemeanor criminal charges, driving while impaired may be a predicate offense for allegations of felony assault, felony and misdemeanor death by vehicle, felony serious injury by vehicle, murder (2nd Degree Murder in NC) and vehicular manslaughter (Involuntary Manslaughter in NC).
A conviction for DWI in North Carolina is consequential, and depending on what you do for a living, can affect your livelihood and ability to support your family. A conviction for DWI on a scooter is the exact same as if you were driving a car, truck, or any other vehicle. Indeed, you can even get a DWI on a bicycle in North Carolina.
Chapter 20 – Motor Vehicles of the North Carolina General Statutes, establishes the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) of the North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) and further defines the NC motor vehicle laws.
For example, Alcohol Concentration is defined in N.C.G.S. 20-4.01(1b) as:
“The concentration of alcohol in a person, expressed either as: a. Grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood; or b. Grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath. . .”
Chemical Analysis, pursuant to subsection (3a) is: “A test or tests of the breath, blood, or other bodily fluid or substance of a person to determine the person's alcohol concentration or presence of an impairing substance. . .”
The Chapter 20 still references, in N.C.G.S. 20-4.01(48b), at least in part, the NC DUI law, setting forth what being “under the influence” is in North Carolina:
“The state of a person having his physical or mental faculties, or both, appreciably impaired by an impairing substance.”
The definition of what constitutes a motor vehicle in North Carolina is far more complicated and expansive, if not a bit confusing.
“Every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway. . .”
The question is, for NC DWI charges, is an electric scooter a vehicle?
The North Carolina Court of Appeals answered that question in 2005 in its published opinion North Carolina v. Crow, (175 N.C. App. 119)
Until December 2006, lawnmowers and bicycles were exempted as vehicles under the NC DWI laws and N.C.G.S. 20-138.1 (the NC DWI Statute). State v Crow sets forth:
- Electric Scooters are Vehicles for DWI in NC
- Stand Up Scooters are not “Personal Assistive Mobility Devices”
- Scooters are not intended to assist people with impairment issues involving mobility
- Scooters in NC do not qualify as a “motorized wheelchair”
NOW IS THE TIME TO BEGIN YOUR NC DWI DEFENSE STRATEGEY
Call Bill Powers at: (704)-342-4357
You may reach Bill Powers directly at: Bill@342HELP.com