OVI – Equestrian Style

Have you ever wondered if horseback riding, on a road, while impaired is illegal? Well, that answer varies by state!

In Florida you apparently can be arrested for impaired horse riding (the DUI was eventually merged with other criminal charges). Polk County, Florida, police arrested a woman for driving under the influence and animal cruelty for riding a horse while being intoxicated at twice the legal limit (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/dui-horse-woman-florida-donna-byrne_us_59fda7d6e4b0baea2631f45b?section=us_crime). What would happen if this occurred in Ohio?

Ohio Revised Code 4511.19 prohibits the operation of “any vehicle, streetcar, or trackless trolley” if the person is under the influence of alcohol, a drug of abuse, or a combination of them. The question here is, what constitutes a vehicle? The Ohio Revised Code defines “vehicle” as:

every device, including a motorized bicycle, in, upon, or by which any person or property may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except that “vehicle” does not include any motorized wheelchair, any electric personal assistive mobility device, any personal delivery device as defined in section 4511.513 of the Revised Code, any device that is moved by power collected from overhead electric trolley wires or that is used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks, or any device, other than a bicycle, that is moved by human power. 

There is no argument that an operational car qualifies as a vehicle. But what else qualifies as a vehicle? In State v. Prater, 2008-Ohio-966, the court upheld an OVI conviction of operating a bicycle while intoxicated. In 2009, a Licking County man pleaded guilty to OVI for operating a motorized bar stool (http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/03/31/barstool.dui/index.html). But what about a horse like the case in Florida?

The Portsmouth Municipal Court had the opportunity to determine whether a horse constitutes a vehicle. In 1996 Brian Euton was charged with OVI for riding his horse on the roadway and Mr. Euton was allegedly impaired. Mr. Euton, while on his horse, and another vehicle were involved in an accident. Mr. Euton’s attorney filed a Motion to Dismiss challenging whether or not a horse constitutes a vehicle. The court determined that “an individual riding a horse while under the influence of alcohol does not violate R.C. 4511.19” and ordered the case dismissed. State v. Euton, 77 Ohio Misc.2d 19, 665 N.E.2d 775, 776 (M.C.1996).

But be careful – while riding a horse while intoxicated may not violate Ohio’s OVI statute, if the horse is pulling a buggy, the buggy is classified as a vehicle and an impaired driver of the horse and buggy could be charged with OVI. And there are still criminal statutes prohibiting public intoxication which you could be charged with.

If you or someone you know has been charged with OVI, call The Nicodemus Law Office at 740-422-9280 to protect your rights.