Interesting facts about driving under the influence (DUI) law, and if you can get a DUI on a horse.

First of all, let us define the technical terms of DUI before we get to answer the question that most horse owners would ask that is; can you get a DUI on a horse?

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Driving Under the Influence or DUI is a term for a crime imposed on those who were caught to be driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs by which they are proven to reach and go beyond the alcohol toxicity level set by the state. Other terms are Driving while intoxicated or impaired (DWI), operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol (OVI), or operating while impaired (OWI).

It is said that at a certain point, drug and alcohol use in excess level and intoxication may lead to impaired judgment and other abnormal bodily functions which are often the cause of accidents that somehow endangers the life of the intoxicated person and may even involve innocent people. Hence DUI law has been around for centuries.

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In every place here on earth, there is a DUI or an equivalent law that regulates the consumption of alcohol especially when driving a vehicle in general, and not just a “motor vehicle”. The authorities have ways to assess the alcohol and drug toxicity level of someone apprehended for this case.

Some Countries like in the United Kingdom, the offense is called “drunk in charge of a motor vehicle” or “drunk in charge” as stated in the Licensing Act 1872.

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Further, in relation to a motor vehicle, the Road Traffic Act 1988 has a separate offense that applies to bicycles. While the 1872 Act that is still in force, covers offense of being “drunk while in charge” of any carriage, horse, cattle, or steam engine by which “carriage” is at times interpreted as including mobility scooters as well.

Assessing for Alcohol Toxicity

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For alcohol consumption, the law imposes that for driving adults age 21 years or older, a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher is illegal. For 21 years and below, the legal limit is lower ranging from 0.00 to 0.02%.

This is usually done through determining the blood alcohol content (BAC); but this can also be expressed as a breath test measurement, often referred to as a BrAC.

How do Authorities Measure the Blood Alcohol Level (BAC) for you to be accused of a crime?

Once you have been reported and/or a Police officer or any Authority for that matter suspect you to be impaired while driving, you will be invited to undergo a series of tests that includes the following;

The BAC or BrAC

            A BAC or BrAC measurement above the specific threshold level, such as 0.08%, defines the criminal offense with no need to prove impairment. In some jurisdictions, there is an aggravated category of the offense at a higher BAC level, such as 0.12%, 0.15% or 0.25%. In many jurisdictions, police officers can conduct field tests of suspects to look for signs of intoxication.

A breathalyzer is a device for estimating BAC from a breath sample. It was Robert Frank Brokenstein, an inventor who developed this device and registered as a trademark in 1954.

When drinking enough alcohol to cause certain blood alcohol concentrations may cause the individual to manifest different levels of signs and symptoms that Authorities look at and confirm a drunkard’s impairment to be charged a DUI crime.

BAC of 0.03% – 0.12 % indicates a flushed, red appearance particularly in the face, impaired judgment, and fine muscle coordination.

BAC of 0.09% – 0.25% manifests lethargic reactions, sedation, balance problem, and blurred vision.

BAC of 0.18% – 0.30% causes profound confusion, impaired speech, staggering, dizziness, and vomiting.

BAC of 0.25% – 0.40% shows stupor, unconsciousness, anterograde amnesia, vomiting, and respiratory depression which is potentially life-threatening.

BAC of 0.35% – 0.80% – causes coma or unconsciousness, life-threatening respiratory depression, and possibly fatal alcohol poisoning.

Depending on the jurisdiction, BAC may be measured by police using three methods: blood, breath, or urine. For law enforcement purposes, breath is the preferred method, since results are available almost instantaneously. The validity of the testing equipment/methods and mathematical relationships for the measurement of breath and blood alcohol have been criticized.

The improper methods of testing and calibration of this are often the defense used against DUI or DWI.

Other tests

            The authorities often conduct a physical and mental assessment on a person who is caught under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. It could range from questioning, letting you walk on a straight path, checking your eyes and vision, and etc.

For drivers suspected of drug-impaired driving, drug testing screens are typically performed in scientific laboratories so that the results will be acceptable evidence at trial.

Due to the overwhelming number of impairing substances that are not alcohol, drugs are classified into different categories for detection purposes. Drug-impaired drivers still show impairment during the battery of standardized field sobriety tests, but there are additional tests to help detect drug-impaired driving.

The Drug Evaluation and Classification Program (DEC) is designed to determine a drug-impaired driver and classify the categories of drugs present in his or her system.

The DEC program breaks down detection into a twelve-step process that a government-certified Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) can use to determine the category or categories of drugs that a suspect is impaired by.

The twelve steps are:

  1. Breath Alcohol Test
  2. Interview with arresting officer (who notes slurred speech, alcohol on breath, etc.)
  3. Preliminary evaluation
  4. Evaluation of the eyes
  5. Psychomotor tests
  6. Vital signs
  7. Darkroom examinations
  8. Muscle tone
  9. Injection sites (for injection of heroin or other drugs)
  10. Interrogation of suspect
  11. The opinion of the evaluator
  12. Toxicological examination

DREs are qualified to offer expert testimony in court that pertains to impaired driving on drugs. The use of the twelve-step process is scientifically validated by numerous field studies.

If a police officer suspects someone to be impaired and under the influence of alcohol and/or drug, a sobriety test is administered. This test will determine whether the officer has probable cause to arrest an individual for suspicion of DUI or DWI.

For an arresting officer to establish a probable cause, they frequently consider the suspect’s performance of Standardized Field Sobriety Tests.

What is a Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST)?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) developed a system for validating field sobriety tests that led to the creation of the Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) battery of tests.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) established a standard battery of three roadside tests that are recommended to be administered in a standardized manner in making this arrest decision.

There are Non-Standardized Field Sobriety Tests as well; however, the Non-Standardized Field Sobriety Tests have not received NHTSA Validation.

This is the difference between the “Standardized” and the “Non-Standardized” Field Sobriety Tests.

The NHTSA has published numerous training manuals associated with SFSTs. As a result of the NHTSA studies, the Walk-and-Turn test was determined to be 68% accurate in predicting whether a test subject is at or above 0.08%, and the One-Leg Stand Test was determined to be 65% accurate in predicting whether a test subject is at or above 0.08% when the tests are properly administered to people within the study parameters.

The three validated tests by NHTSA are:

  • The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test, usually with the use of an object such as a pen or other stimulus that lets you follow with your eyes. This test determines the characteristic eye movement reaction to that stimulus or object.
  • The Walk-and-Turn Test (heel-to-toe in a straight line). This test is designed to measure a person’s ability to follow directions and remember a series of steps while dividing attention between physical and mental tasks.
  • The One-Leg-Stand Test, This test will let you stand on one foot while the other one is raised for a period of time and determines your ability to balance.

Alternative tests, which have not been validated by the NHTSA, include the following:

  • The Romberg Test, or the Modified-Position-of-Attention Test, (feet together, head back, eyes closed for thirty seconds).
  • The Finger-to-Nose Test (tip head back, eyes closed, touch the tip of the nose with tip of index finger).
  • The Alphabet Test (recite all or part of the alphabet).
  • The Finger Count Test (touch each finger of the hand to thumb counting with each touch (1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 3, 2, 1)).
  • The Counting Test (counting backward from a number ending in a digit other than 5 or 0 and stopping at a number ending in a digit other than 5 or 0. The series of numbers should be more than 15).
  • The Preliminary Alcohol Screening Test, PAS Test or PBT, (breathe into a “portable or preliminary breath tester”, PAS Test or PBT).

In the US, field sobriety tests are voluntary; however, some states mandate commercial drivers to accept preliminary breath tests (PBT).

Preliminary Breath Tests (PBT)

The Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) or Preliminary Alcohol Screening test (PAS) is sometimes categorized as part of field sobriety testing, although it is not part of the series of performance tests.

The PBT is administered using a portable breath tester. While the tester provides numerical blood alcohol content (BAC) readings, its primary use is for screening and establishing probable cause for arrest, to invoke the implied consent requirements.

In US law, this is necessary to sustain a conviction based on evidential testing (or implied consent refusal). Regardless of the terminology, in order to sustain a conviction based on evidential tests, probable cause must be shown (or the suspect must volunteer to take the evidential test without implied consent requirements being invoked).

Different requirements apply in many states to drivers under DUI probation, in which case participation in a preliminary breath test (PBT) may be a condition of probation. Some US states, notably California, have statutes on the books penalizing PBT refusal for drivers under 21; however the Constitutionality of those statutes has not been tested.

As a practical matter, most criminal lawyers advise not engaging in discussion or “justifying” a refusal with the police.

Can You Get a Dui on a Horse?

Let us analyze the DUI as presented above and go back to the question. Can you really get a DUI on a horse?

The answer is YES. Although it may be confusing with the terminologies used as with the “motor vehicle” where it is obvious that a horse in not classified a “motor vehicle” for that matter. Getting DUI on a horse is absolutely possible as stated a horse is classified under the general meaning of “vehicle”. Thus, with exceptions like Montana whose definition of “vehicle” explicitly notes “except devices moved by animal power”, if you’re riding or driving a horse that is pulling some sort of cart on a road, you can potentially be cited for driving under the influence.

In cases that you don’t get a DUI for riding a horse drunk, you can still be charged with other crimes that may include improper handling of animals or animal cruelty for instance.

You may just be lucky that no one would report you or there are no police officer who suspects you of DUI. But once you get caught and found guilty these are the possible punishments under law that you must be ready to deal with.

For First-Timers:

  • Fines up to $1,000;
  • Jail time up to one year;
  • A total of 12 points added to your license; and
  • Driver’s license suspension up to six months.

While DWI is less serious than a DUI, the potential penalties are still severe. Penalties for a first time DWI include:

  • Fines up to $500;
  • Jail time up to 2 months;
  • 8 total points on your license; and
  • Driver’s license suspension up to 60 days.

An increased sanction is imposed for repeaters depending on its severity. And typically more points added on your license, more fines and more days in jail.