Minnesota court: Segway drunk driving ruled not illegal

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has ruled that there is currently no state law that makes it illegal to operate a Segway while intoxicated on a public road. The device is not classified as a motor vehicle as defined in state statutes, the court concluded.

The ruling came in an appeal filed by a man arrested by police officers for driving under the influence of alcohol on a Segway. The police claimed that they observed his Segway weaving two times over a road’s center line. The 48-year-old man was subjected to testing that purported to show a blood alcohol level of 0.19, well above the legal standard for intoxicated driving set at 0.08. The man was returning from a pool tournament in a bar located a short distance from his house.

A previous 2010 driving while intoxicated charge against the man for operating a Segway was thrown out by a trial court in 2010.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has previously ruled that a motorized scooter used by a disabled man is not subject to the DWI law. Electric personal assistive mobility devices are excluded from the definition of a motor vehicle. The court applied that precedent in this Segway ruling. The court noted that the state legislature could have written the law to apply to devices like a Segway, but chose not to; therefore, the man cannot be convicted of a DWI.

The defendant is lucky. Had he been convicted of driving while intoxicated in both of his Segway incidents, he could have been in a lot of trouble. Any charges of driving while under the influence of alcohol are taken very seriously in Minnesota, especially if those charges accompany an accident. This is but one reason why it is important to immediately contact a drunk driving attorney whenever police suspect someone of driving while intoxicated.

Source: Pioneer Press, “Driving drunk on a Segway is legal, Minnesota court rules,” Emily Gurnon, Jan. 22, 2013

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