Riding Under the Influence?

On Monday, a man in Boulder was arrested for riding a horse under the influence of alcohol. While this seems a bit odd, it is a good lesson for all about the Colorado DUI laws and what they do and do not cover.

In Colorado, a person can be charged, and even convicted of DUI, for operating a vehicle under the influence. While almost all DUI cases involve a “motor vehicle,” a motor is not required under the law. In fact, the DUI laws in this State read that it is “a misdemeanor for any person who is under the influence of alcohol or one or more drugs, or a combination of both alcohol and one or more drugs, to drive any vehicle in this state.” Throughout Colorado’s DUI statute, located at 42-4-1301, the term “motor vehicle” and “vehicle” are both used to stress that a DUI can happen on a non-motorized vehicle.

The definition for “vehicle” is contained in C.R.S. 42-1-102(112). It defines “vehicle” as

…a device that is capable of moving itself, or of being moved, from place to place upon wheels or endless tracks. “Vehicle” includes, without limitation, a bicycle, electrical assisted bicycle, or EPAMD, but does not include a wheelchair, off-highway vehicle, snowmobile, farm tractor, or implement of husbandry designed primarily or exclusively for use and used in agricultural operations or any device moved exclusively over stationary rails or tracks or designed to move primarily through the air.

“Motor vehicle” is also defined in subsection 58 of this same section, and is as follows:

(58) “Motor vehicle” means any self-propelled vehicle that is designed primarily for travel on the public highways and that is generally and commonly used to transport persons and property over the public highways or a low-speed electric vehicle; except that the term does not include low-power scooters, wheelchairs, or vehicles moved solely by human power. For the purposes of the offenses described in sections 42-2-128, 42-4-1301, 42-4-1301.1, and 42-4-1401 for farm tractors and off-highway vehicles, as defined in section 33-14.5-101(3), C.R.S., operated on streets and highways, “motor vehicle” includes a farm tractor or an off-highway vehicle that is not otherwise classified as a motor vehicle. For the purposes of sections 42-2-127, 42-2-127.7, 42-2-128, 42-2-138, 42-2-206, 42-4-1301, and 42-4-1301.1, “motor vehicle” includes a low-power scooter.

So it is clear that a person can get a DUI on a bike, scooter, skateboard, or any other movable medium that can run on wheels or endless tracks.

But, what about a horse?

While it is not a DUI to walk or ride a wheelchair on a road, another section in the Colorado Revised Statutes covers riding animals on the road under the influence, but it is not a DUI.

C.R.S. § 42-4-805(3), titled “Pedestrians walking or traveling in a wheelchair on highways” makes it unlawful for any person who is under the influence of alcohol or of any drug to walk or be upon any portion of a street normally used by moving vehicle traffic. Subsection (4) of this statute applies to pedestrians and to riders of animals. The penalty for riding under the influence is much less than a DUI conviction, and is considered a civil “class B” traffic infraction fineable up to $100 and no possibility of jail. C.R.S. § 42-4-805(9).


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