You can be charged with a DUI if you're pulled over and found to be intoxicated while operating any kind of vehicle, including cars, trucks, tractors, motorcycles and even bicycles. But did you know that you can get a DUI while on a horse? If you don't believe it, one Florida woman can attest to this fact.
Donna Byrne, 53, was pulled over on her horse roughly 35 miles east of Tampa after a passer-by reported her to local authorities. According to the passer-by, she looked confused and was possibly in danger. Sheriff's officers revealed that she smelled of alcohol and that she could barely stand on her feet after dismounting.
It turned out that Byrne had ridden her horse for up to 15 miles from Polk City with blood alcohol levels of almost twice the state's legal limit. Although the horse isn't a vehicle per se, she is still being charged with driving under the influence while operating a vehicle. In addition to the DUI charge, she's also facing an animal neglect charge as a result of putting the horse in danger.
The issue of whether an intoxicated individual can be charged with a DUI or a DWI varies depending on the state. In California, an appellate court ruled that people riding animals on the highway are subject to the same laws as people who are driving vehicles.
However, in some states, like Montana, people riding on horseback cannot be arrested for a DUI because the state law's criteria for a vehicle in DUI cases excludes the use of devices that are driven by animal power. This became particularly controversial after an ad run by Montana's Department of Transportation depicted a horse picking up its owner at a bar.
Criminal defense lawyers in Florida are uncertain as to whether the DUI charges against Byrne will stick. One lawyer pointed out that according to Florida law, people riding on animals on roadways should be treated as pedestrians, which means that they can't be charged with DUIs. If this is the case, then the most Byrne could be charged with, besides animal neglect, is disorderly conduct.
However, other lawyers point out that Byrne was using the horse to get from one point to another, which for all intents and purposes, meant that she was using the horse as a vehicle.