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People v. Lyon: Can You Get a DUI On An Electric Scooter?

May 20, 2015 DUI/OWI/DWI

The Court of Appeals in People v. Lyon ruled that an electric four-wheeled scooter is a vehicle for the purposes of an operating while intoxicated charge.

Facts of the Case

The Defendant in this case was riding a slow-moving electric four wheeled scooter down the curb of the road. The highest speed for the scooter is four miles per hour. He was weaving in and out of traffic, causing back-ups. In his scooter with him was an open can of beer. The Defendant was disabled, and used the scooter instead of a wheelchair.

The government charged Defendant with operating while intoxicated and possession of an open container of alcohol in a vehicle.

Issues for the Court

The Defendant did not dispute that he was intoxicated, impaired, or had an open can of beer. Nor did he contest that he was on a highway open to the public. Defendant’s argument was that he was not in a vehicle. Key to both the OWI and possession of an open container charge is, of course, that a person be in a vehicle.

Defining the Term “Motor Vehicle”

The Court looked to the statutes to determine the definition of a vehicle.

The Motor Vehicle Code defines a”vehicle” as, every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except devices exclusively moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks. MCL 257.79.

The Motor Vehicle Code defines a “motor vehicle” as, “every vehicle  that is self-propelled…. Motor vehicle does not include an electric patrol vehicle being operated in compliance with the electric patrol vehicle act …. Motor vehicle does not include an electric personal assistive mobility device. Motor vehicle does not include an electric carriage.” MCL 257.33.

The Court’s Decision

The Court ruled that the electric scooter is indeed a vehicle. The Court looked to the Michigan Supreme Court case called People v. Roger. In Roger, The Court said a person using a device that does not fall under the traditional idea of a motor vehicle may be prosecuted for driving under the influence if that vehicle is on a public highway.

That case involved a defendant operating a snowmobile on a highway. The defendant argued he should have been charged with operating a snowmobile under the influence, and not with operating a motor vehicle under the influence. The snowmobile statute carried lesser penalties, which was the motivation for the argument.

In this case, the Court said, the Defendant’s scooter falls in the same category. Although not a traditional motor vehicle, such as a car or bus, the scooter was nevertheless a motor vehicle under the statutory definition and therefore.

The Court here found no exception for an electric scooter, even if Defendant was disabled. The Court noted there was no exception in the motor vehicle code for the scooter once it’s on the highway, other than requiring other motorists to use extra caution while around the scooter.

Takeaways from the Case?

Don’t drive any sort of motorized vehicle on the road after drinking. Even if not a car, you could still be charged with driving while intoxicated.

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Call Sam Bernstein at 734-883-9584 or e-mail at bernstein@arborypsilaw.com.

Sam Bernstein is a DUI Lawyer in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.

ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48108.

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This case is captioned as People v. Lyon, 310 Mich. App. 515, 872 N.W.2d 245 (2015).