If you assume you need to be behind the wheel of a car or truck in order to get charged with driving under the influence, you’re not alone. It’s a common misconception that, to get a DUI, you need to be behind the wheel of an actual car or truck. However, that’s not the case at all.
A North Carolina man is finding out the hard way what the definition of a motorized vehicle is. He was arrested behind the wheel of a golf cart for driving without the headlights on. When police pulled him over, he admitted to drinking but refused a breath test, resulting in the suspension of his license.
So, what does it mean to drive a motor vehicle in the context of a DUI in North Carolina? And what does the law consider to be a motor vehicle, anyway? Read on to find out all you need to know about North Carolina DUIs.
DUIs in North Carolina
North Carolina DUIs, also referred to as DWI (driving while impaired), are defined under the law as driving a vehicle on any public vehicular area, street, or highway while under the influence of a substance that impairs the driver. That substance can be either drugs or alcohol. A blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher means that a person is, in fact, committing a DWI.
Also under North Carolina law, what counts as a vehicle is further defined. The law narrows down vehicles to be anything that can be used to transport a person or property on a public road.
Bikes are considered vehicles when used on public roads due to the fact that the driver of the bike must obey all the same road rules as any other driver. Also, mopeds with two or three wheels are also considered vehicles – if their engine isn’t larger than 50 cubic centimeters, and they have a maximum speed of 30 miles per hour.
Therefore, golf carts are absolutely vehicles under DUI restrictions, if taken on public roads, as are almost any other conveyance you can imagine. The only exceptions are motorized wheelchairs, skateboards, rollerblades, trains, and wheelbarrows.
What Is a Public Vehicular Area?
Another key to a DWI charge in North Carolina is that you must be driving in a public vehicular area. This is defined under the law as any street or highway as well as any place that is open to public vehicular traffic.
Basically, anywhere a vehicle can be driven by a person is considered a public vehicular area, including parking lots, driveways, and parking garages. Some of these areas may be on private property, but that doesn’t mean you cannot be charged with a DWI if caught drinking and driving with any type of vehicle in one of these zones. The law says that even if it’s private property that the public can access – it counts.
Penalties for DWIs
Whether you’re in a golf cart or other vehicle, the penalties remain the same. For a first offense, you can be asked to pay fines up to $2,500 and lose your driver’s license for up to one year. For any DWIs past the first, you can spend mandatory time in jail and lose your license for an even longer period of time.
If you’re charged with a DWI in North Carolina in a golf cart or any other vehicle, take it seriously. If found guilty you can face serious penalties, and it can leave a mark on your record for life.