Asleep at the Reins: Horse-Drawn Buggy DUI
June 7, 2022 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense, Drunk Driving/DUI Social Share
All of us have been told multiple times “Don’t Drink and Drive,” but fewer of us have ever heard “Don’t Drink and Ride.” Authorities have a responsibility to ensure all drivers conform to their state’s vehicle laws, and a horse-led carriage is no exception.
Being charged with a DUI is a difficult and stressful situation but having the right kind of help can facilitate the entire ordeal. Not only do people facing a DUI have to deal with fines and possible jail or prison time, but they could also have their driving privileges suspended, or could lose their jobs if convicted.
In this blog, we will cover an Ohio incident where an Amish driver was Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated “OVI,” as well as Florida’s take on just what constitutes a “vehicle” under the law and the charges a person can face when driving under the influence, whether a car or a horse buggy.
This event unfolded on May 14th, around 2:30 am where an Amish driver fell asleep while operating a horse-drawn buggy in Ohio. Police responded to 911 calls claiming that there was a buggy driving out of control on the road.
The officer’s body-camera footage shows a horse-drawn buggy traveling at a slow leisure pace in the middle of the night. The officers quickly attempt to stop the carriage to no avail and notice that the driver is fast asleep. Not only is it very clear from the footage that the driver is passed out, but the video also shows a beer bottle next to him.
Ashtabula Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Talbert stated how “there is a Bud Light can sitting in there and he’s passed clean out,” and “we got a drunk Amish guy passed out in a buggy.”
The body-cam footage also shows how the officers attempted to block the buggy with their police cruiser. The horse, however, continued on its path and hit the officer’s vehicle. A little bit later, some other people show up and helped calm the horse. Fortunately, the horse and driver were fine, but the driver was arrested and treated for a minor head injury. The driver first refused a field sobriety test, but later registered 0.063% on a breathalyzer test.
What Constitutes a “vehicle” in Florida
Under Florida Statute Section 316.003(106), the legislature defines a “vehicle” as “[e]very device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except personal delivery devices, mobile carriers, and devices used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.”
This very inclusive definition means that in Florida, a horse-drawn carriage, a 4X4, a golf cart, or any device that is used on a highway could land you in trouble if operated while intoxicated.
But what exactly is a highway? Well, the legislature defines a highway as a street or road that is open to the public for vehicular traffic, or a private road or street where a county or municipality exercises some type of traffic control influence.
The law states that “personal delivery devices, mobile carriers, and devices used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks” are exempt. But what exactly are each of these devices?
- A Mobile Carrier is defined as an electric powered device that is operated on sidewalks and crosswalks, weighs less than 80 pounds (without the cargo), can reach a max speed of 12.5 mph, and is equipped with technology that allows it to transport property while being supervised and remaining within 25 feet of the owner.
- A Personal Delivery Device is defined as an electrically powered device that is operated on sidewalks and crosswalks to transport property, weighs no more than set out by the Department of Transportation, can reach a max speed of 10 mph, and is equipped with technology that allows it to be operated with or without supervision by a natural person.
- Devices used Exclusively Upon Non-Moving Rails or Tracks is referring to railroad trains but could also cover any other devices that can be mounted on tracks.
Getting a DUI Charge in Florida
Under Florida Statute Section 316.193, drivers can be considered under the influence when they are driving or when merely in “actual physical control” of a vehicle.
Actual physical control means that the accused must be physically in the vehicle and have the capability to operate the vehicle, regardless of whether the accused is operating the vehicle at the time.
The courts in Florida normally look at some of these factors when determining if the driver was in actual physical control:
- Whether evidence shows the defendant driving the vehicle to the location or planning to drive away from the location;
- Whether the keys were in the engine;
- Whether the engine was running or warm;
- Whether the lights were turned on inside the vehicle;
- Whether the driver’s foot was on the brake or gas pedal;
- Whether the driver tried to put the car in drive;
- Whether the defendant was sitting in the driver’s seat; or
- Whether the seat was reclined or upright.
To learn more about what it means to be in actual physical control of a vehicle in Florida, visit our blog here.
Consequences of Getting a DUI in Florida
Depending on whether it’s the first, second, or even fourth time getting a DUI conviction, Florida penalizes the driver more severely each time.
- Jail – Up to 6 months
- If BAC over .15, or minor in the car = 9 months
- If the cause of the accident = 12 months
- License suspension – 6 months to one year
- Fines – $500 – $1,000
- $1,000 – $2,000 – minor was in the vehicle or BAC was over .15
- Interlock – If BAC over .15 = at least 6 months
- Vehicle Impoundment – 10 days
- Jail – Up to one year based on circumstances
- License suspension – Minimum of 6 months
- Minimum of 5 years if within 5 years of the first conviction
- Fines – $1,000 – $2,000
- $2,000 – $4,000 – minor was in the vehicle or BAC was over .15
- Interlock – At least one year
- If BAC over .15 = at least 2 years
- Vehicle Impoundment – 30 days
- Jail – Up to one year if prior convictions are 10+ yrs old
- Up to five years if one of the prior convictions is less than 10 yrs old
- License suspension – anywhere from 6 months to 10 yrs based on circumstances
- Fines – $2,000 – $5,000
- $4,000 – $5,000 – minor was in the vehicle or BAC was over .15
- Interlock – A minimum of 2 years
- Vehicle Impoundment – 90 days
Fourth or Subsequent DUI
- Felony charge
- Prison – up to 5 years
- License Revocation – no chance to ever have a full license again for life
- Fines and Fees – At least $2,000, but can increase substantially
To learn more about the many different issues you may need to be aware of when dealing with a possible DUI conviction, read more in our blog here.
Reducing a DUI to a Reckless Charge
Occasionally a skilled DUI defense attorney may be able to negotiate a plea for a reckless driving charge before trial. While being convicted at all may sound bad, being able to downgrade the charge to this one can be a huge win. None of the penalties above are required to be imposed with a reckless driving plea. The court may order alcohol treatment or community service, but mandatory interlock and license suspensions would be off the table. The penalties possible for a reckless driving charge are:
- Up to 90 days in jail;
- Up to 6 months with a prior conviction
- Fines between $25 to $500
- $50 to $1,000 with a prior conviction
By being able to get the State to withhold adjudication you may also be able to seal the DUI arrest record. This is in addition to the greatly reduced penalties shown above.
The bad news is that DUI laws in Florida are very prosecutor friendly, and do not favor the accused. Very rarely does a prosecutor offer a reckless driving charge without a defense attorney fighting to show how weak the prosecutor’s case is.
To learn more about how to reduce a DUI charge in Florida, visit our blog here.
See Past Leon County DUI Case Results
Take a look at some outcomes and case results in Leon County DUI cases we have handled recently.
Finding a DUI Defense Lawyer in Tallahassee, FL
An arrest for a DUI does not mean you will be convicted of this serious crime. The right Tallahassee DUI defense lawyers can frame a strong defense strategy while making sure your rights are protected, giving you the greatest chance at a reduction or dismissal of charges. Contact Pumphrey Law today at (850) 681-7777 to schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss the details of your case.
Written by Jesus Lozano