Saturday, June 18, 2011

Minnesota DWI Lawyer Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DWI Case of the Week is the published Minnesota Court of Appeals decision of State v. Brown (decided June 13, 2011), which stands for the proposition that a motorized wheelchair or handicap scooter does not constitute a "motor vehicle" for purposes of the DWI law.

For some reason, Mr. Brown decided it would be a good idea to get drunk and drive his battery-operated three-wheel Legend Pride Mobility Scooter on the sidewalks of the City of Grand Rapids.  Mr. Brown drove his scooter to a car dealership and the dealer called the police as he was obviously drunk.  Mr. Brown was subsequently charged with a DWI and the issue in the case was whether his mobility scooter constituted a "motor vehicle".

The Minnesota DWI Statute defines a "motor vehicle", in relevant part, as "every vehicle which is self-propelled", excluding "an electronic personal assistive mobility device".  A "driver" is defined as "every person who drives or is in actual physical control of a vehicle". A "vehicle" is defined as "every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway".

A separate Minnesota Statute, however, defines a "pedestrian" as "any person afoot or in a wheelchair". And a "wheelchair" is defined as including "any manual or motorized wheelchair, scooter, tricycle, or similar device used by a disabled person as a substitute for walking".

After reviewing all of the statutory definitions, the Minnesota Court of Appeals correctly held that, "It is plain that for purposes of the traffic regulations, Brown's scooter is a wheelchair and is not a motor vehicle and Brown, who uses the scooter as a substitute for walking, is, while operating his scooter, a pedestrian....We conclude that Brown's operation of his scooter as a substitute for walking does not make him the driver of a motor vehicle within the meaning of (the DWI statute) and does not subject him to criminal charges for operating the scooter while impaired."

Moral Of The Story:  If you are going to get drunk, walk or take a wheelchair.

F.T. Sessoms, Minnesota DWI Attorney, Minnesota DUI Lawyer, Minneapolis DWI Attorney, Minneapolis DUI Lawyer