DWI charges in North Carolina can allege bikes, lawnmowers and more
Over the course of the summer this blog has reported stories of North Carolina DWI charges being filed against individuals who were driving “vehicles” other than automobiles. The last post discussed a story involving a moped in a parking lot. The appellate court ruling in that case involved a challenge to the location of the arrest, that is, in a K-Mart parking lot, and not a challenge to the allegations involving the moped.
Late last month, this blog carried the story of a prosecutor being arrested for DWI after allegedly riding a bicycle. Last fall, a story was reported on this blog concerning a DWI involving a golf cart. The common thread through the stories is that North Carolina DWI laws are broadly interpreted in the state.
After the allegations arose in the bicycle case, Major Billy Bradshaw of the Morgantown Public Safety Department told WBTV, “The law specifically states that if you are in driving any vehicle upon a public vehicular area or highway or street you could be charged with DWI.” As the moped case illustrates, the law applies to parking lots. However, the broad interpretation of “public vehicular area” would also apply to sidewalks and paved public greenways in the state (and more).
Questions can arise as to what constitutes a “vehicle” under North Carolina law. As the recent stories show, bikes, mopeds and golf carts are considered vehicles for the purpose of DWI charges in the state. The actual list of “vehicles” can be much larger, for instance allegations of impaired driving could arise involving a riding lawnmower or a scooter under North Carolina law. The list can go on and on.
The difficulty is that the penalties for conviction are as harsh whether the allegations involve a bicycle or a sports car. North Carolina law does not make a distinction based upon the type of vehicle. An individual convicted of DWI in Greenville, or anywhere in the state, involving allegations of riding a bicycle while impaired, could lose their license to drive a car. The normal sentencing rules also apply–with jail time, fines and other severe consequences that a DWI conviction can involve.
Source: WBTV, “DWI penalty is the same for those driving cars, bikes and mowers,” Steve Ohnesorge 24 Jun 2011