An interesting occurrence happens inside nearly every courtroom in the country. The judge, jury, plaintiff, defendant, and attorneys either speak the English language or have a translator interpret the language to them. The laws that are disputed inside these courtrooms are written by English speakers in that same language. There are generally even English definitions written into the statutes at hand to be sure that the words are not minced and that misinterpretations do not happen. Yet, very often in the criminal justice system defendants will find that the words in use are still open to interpretation.
This is true even when it comes to statutes that have been around for decades. Take, for example, the law that prohibits driving while intoxicated. This law has been around for decades, is written in plain English, and is enforced daily by officers across the state. The law includes a section explaining what it means to be intoxicated and how to measure it (a blood alcohol content above .08%).
Still, just recently a Minnesota man won an appeal for the charges of drunk driving based solely on the definition of the word “driving.”
A Man from Medina
Mark Greenman is a 48-year-old resident of Medina Minnesota. Mr. Greenman owns a stand-up scooter commonly referred to as a Segway. In 2010 Mr. Greenman was arrested and charged for riding around on his Segway after having a few drinks at a local bar. In February of this year Mr. Greenman was arrested once more for riding his Segway after enjoying some libations.
On a third occasion between these two arrests Mr. Greenman was stopped and charged with drunk driving while riding on his Segway while intoxicated. Each of these times he has chosen to contest the charges.
Back in 2010 he filed a motion to dismiss based on the fact that there was no driving involved in this arrest. The City of Medina did not appeal the ruling and the charges were dropped. This past month Mr. Greenman contested the most recent charges arguing that in order for him to be “driving” under the law, he must be in a “motor vehicle.”
This time, Greenman successfully argued that because his Segway could not go faster than 12 miles per hour, it does not qualify as a motor vehicle and therefore he could not have been driving and could not be charged with driving while intoxicated.
Driving While Intoxicated
In Minnesota this story is particularly interesting because conventional wisdom suggests that if it has a motor, it can get you a DWI. The technicality here is that Greenman’s Segway did not have a motor, but rather was powered by electricity. Other off-road vehicles will not help their riders to escape charges for DWIs. This means that an intoxicated driver of a snowmobile, golf cart, or an all-terrain vehicle would be subject to criminal penalties.
In the State v. Greenman the court held that his Segway was an “electric personal assistive mobility device.” This definition fits soundly with an electric wheelchair, which would suggest that criminal penalties do not apply to intoxicated drivers of electric wheelchairs. Remember that your off-road actions have on-road consequences. Minnesota is an “implied consent” state, which means if you operate a vehicle in the state you have legally consented to a sobriety test.
Furthermore, a DWI conviction for operating an off-road vehicle could mean that your driver’s license will be suspended or you will be required to install an interlock ignition device in your vehicle.
If you have been charged with driving while intoxicated or even with a Segway DWI, don’t leave your fate in the hands of the prosecutor. Contact the Mankato DWI attorneys at Kohlmeyer Hagen Law Offices today.