Drinking and wheeling

Is it against the law in the US to operate an electric wheelchair if I’m under the influence of alcohol?

Depending on the laws of your state, you might be a pedestrian or a vehicle(like a bicycle).

Public intoxication, at any rate.

runner pat is correct, but I just wanted to add that the reason that some states hesitate to take that step is because, for a handicapped person, a wheelchair is like his legs. To impose a DUI penalty on him for “rolling” down the sidewalk would be like giving a fully functional person a DUI for simply walking.

Yes, you can get a DUI while operating a wheelchair, motorized or not. Also while riding a bike, walking a bike, riding a horse, lawn mower, tractor, tricycle, Amish buggy, golf cart, moped, boat, Segway.

The only sure way not to get a DUI after drinking is to get a ride or walk. And I’m not too sure those options are completly safe either.


There is here in MN as long as one is not on a public roadway or on public waters until there is an personal injury then one can be charged with DUI.
Here is a case where a motorized Lazy-Boy operator was cited and the chair surrendered to the court.

When one rides any kind of motorized vehicle anyplace in MN private Property included and gets injured or injures another can be sited and loose their drivers license even though one dose not need a drivers license to operate an ATV. :smack:

Yes, instead walking gets you a ticket for ‘public intoxication’, while riding in a ‘vehicle’ (as defined by your state laws) gets you a ticket for DWI.

Does this mean I can get a DWI when operating my electric wheelchair drunk?

As noted above, it depends on your state. In theory, it is possible in some states and has happened so that is a ‘yes’ in the broad sense. You can get a DUI for lots of things other than driving an automobile while drunk. You can even get one for sitting or sleeping in a vehicle even if you have no plans to drive it. You can get one on a horse or a riding lawnmower and you can get one even when you are below the legal limit on a breathalyser. DUI laws tend to be pretty broad so that they can catch odd situations. The police probably wouldn’t mess with you at a festival where everyone is drinking but they might decide to see how far they can test the law if your main hobby is getting liquored up and chasing elementary school kids down the road after school every day in your 20hp custom wheelchair.

I’m not sure if you didn’t understand my post, or I didn’t understand yours.

Yes, being drunk in a public place, including staggering down the sidewalk is against the law and is public intoxication.

The OP asks if riding an electric wheelchair can get a person a DUI. My point was that if a person is handicapped, it would be unfair to give that person a DUI for riding his wheelchair drunk as that person’s wheelchair is the equivalent of a healthy person’s legs and as such, would be unfair to hit him with an additional DUI penalty.

That is the reason some states do not take that step to include a wheelchair as a “vehicle.”