Minnesota man scoots out of scooter DWI charges on appeal

Occasionally you might hear about someone getting picked up for a DWI while driving a lawnmower or some other type of recreational vehicle; however one Minnesota man made it into the headlines when he was arrested for a DWI while riding on a personal mobility scooter.

According to news reports, the man drove his mobility scooter to a nearby car lot. He claimed that he was looking for a vehicle for his girlfriend. One of the employees at the car dealership allegedly called the police to report the presence of an intoxicated man on the property. When the police arrived at the car lot, the man was given a breath test. The results of the test indicated that the man’s alcohol concentration (a.k.a. BAC) was 0.17. The legal limit in Minnesota and every other state is 0.08.

The man was arrested and charged with a DWI. He appealed the conviction on the grounds that he was not driving a “vehicle” within the scope of the Minnesota DWI statute. Under the law, a “vehicle” is “any vehicle which is self-propelled except for an electric personal mobility device.” Since the man was operating such a personal mobility device (a motorized wheelchair or scooter) at the time of his arrest, he could not be charged with operating a “vehicle” under the influence of alcohol.

The judges who heard the man’s appeal agreed with this line of reasoning and reversed his DWI conviction. Essentially, under Minnesota law, an electric scooter is classified as a wheel chair. Therefore, the man was technically functioning as a pedestrian rather than a driver at the time of his arrest.

The defendant’s response to the court following his legal victory: “I’ll be danged. You just made my day.”


Pioneer Press: “Disabled man on scooter won’t get DWI,” Emily Gurnon, 14 Jun. 2011

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

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