In North Carolina, you could be charged with a DWI without ever going near a car.
It often comes as a surprise to many residents, but you can be charged with a DWI or DUI if you are intoxicated while driving any vehicle, from bicycles to boats. Under North Carolina law, a vehicle is defined as:
“…every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, excepting devices moved by human power or used exclusively upon fixed rails or tracks; provided, that for the purposes of this Chapter bicycles shall be deemed vehicles and every rider of a bicycle upon a highway shall be subject to the provisions of this Chapter applicable to the driver of a vehicle except those by their nature can have no application.”
Under this broad definition, it’s possible to land yourself a DWI charge while riding a wide variety of transportation vessels, including:
Bicycles. In North Carolina and many other states, riding a bicycle while intoxicated is illegal. In some cases, the DWI penalties are equally as serious for intoxicated bicyclists as they are for intoxicated drivers. That means that if you are caught biking with a blood alcohol content over .08 percent, you could face jail time, community service, and fines.
Golf carts. Drinking and driving on golf cars is a particularly serious issue in places like Bald Head Island, where many people use golf carts to get around, and golf cart DWI arrests are common. Before getting behind the wheel of a golf cart after drinking, remember—drinking and driving a golf cart is not only very dangerous, it’s illegal.
Boats. North Carolina law prohibits boating under the influence on any watercraft, including sailboats, yachts, water skis, and even surfboards. Alcohol is a major contributor to boating accidents and fatalities, causing impaired balance, blurred vision, and impaired judgement among boaters.
Lawnmower. That’s right. You can be charged with a DUI for driving a lawnmower while intoxicated in our state. You can be charged with a DWI for riding a lawnmower drunk in a public area, such as a sidewalk or paved greenway.
Mopeds. Although you aren’t required to have a driver’s license to drive a moped in North Carolina, you can still get a DWI for driving one while intoxicated. Moving up to 30 miles an hour, drunk moped drivers can cause serious accidents and injuries.
Interestingly, North Carolina DWI statute exempts people from a DWI charge while riding intoxicated on a horse. Segways and personal mobility devices—such as motorized wheelchairs—are also excluded from our state’s definition of vehicles, so they are generally considered to be exempt from DWI charges as well.
But remember—you still may face other charges for riding a horse or operating personal mobility devices while intoxicated, such as drunk and disorderly charges.
North Carolina DWI laws are complex, and there is some grey area surrounding our state’s definition of a vehicle. That’s why it’s important to consult with an experienced North Carolina DWI defense attorney after being arrested for operating any kind of vehicle while intoxicated. It doesn’t matter if you were charged with a DWI while riding a unicycle, canoe, or car—any type of DWI conviction carries serious consequences.
An attorney can help you understand the charges facing you and explore your options before defending your rights in court. With an attorney on your side, you will be in a better positon to have your DWI charges reduced or dropped altogether.
About the Author
Attorney Mike Schlosser represents victims of personal injury, those charged with a crime, as well as those facing traffic charges. A former Guilford County, North Carolina District Attorney, Schlosser has been in private practice at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett since 1983 and has been a member of the North Carolina State Bar since 1973.