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What Happens If I Get a DUI On A Motorized Scooter Like Bird or Lime?

The Rise of Motorized Scooters as Transportation

In 2018, we saw cities and companies implement new modes of public transportation. Some companies tested autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles, and others contracted with cities to implement motorized scooters. This summer, cities throughout Ohio – specifically Columbus and Oxford – implemented commuting motorized scooters, or e-scooters, as a new alternative for driving a vehicle and other modes of public transportation. For a majority of commuters, e-scooters may be a great alternative, but with no clear laws to regulate e-scooters, there’s are many unanswered questions.

Some of the first institutions to question e-scooters and then implement rules and regulations were universities. Miami University in Ohio banned e-scooters in July 2018. In addition, the university wrote an open letter to the city of Oxford and Bird Rides Inc., the company providing e-scooters to Oxford, reiterating their stance and denouncing any liability for the city’s e-scooters.

“The university will not assume and expressly denies any responsibility or liability for any damage to e-scooters that may be present on university property. Similarly, the university will not assume and expressly denies any responsibility for any property damage, injuries or deaths caused by e-scooters,” Creamer wrote. “Since it appears the city is encouraging the use of e-scooters by Miami University students and employees, we expect the city and Bird Rides Inc. are fully prepared to accept all legal and financial responsibility for the use or misuse of e-scooters.”

Due to student opinion and the fact that the university admitted to not being able to prevent students from bringing e-scooters on campus, it removed its ban and revised its Use of Bicycles and Transportation Devices policy to include many conditions when using e-scooters on campus.  These conditions include where an e-scooter can be ridden, parked, and who can ride them. It also includes fees for any impounded e-scooters and bans University employees from using them on campus or for official University business.

Another rule implemented by the University is one that requires students to comply with all applicable laws, including riding e-scooters while under the influence of alcohol or drug substances. While Ohio cities began to enforce laws including permits, company regulations, parking locations, and safe riding, there wasn’t one that included riding e-scooters under the influence of alcohol or drug substances. For this, we turn to the current Ohio traffic and DUI/OVI laws which declare that riding scooters such as the e-scooters while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is indeed illegal. As a result, a rider can receive a DUI/OVI if pulled over on an e-scooter.

What is considered a “vehicle” in a DUI?

To get to this conclusion, we first need to look up the legal definition of “vehicle.” The Ohio Revised Code defines “vehicle” as “every device, including a motorized bicycle, in, upon, or by which any person or property may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except that “vehicle” does not include any motorized wheelchair, any electric personal assistive mobility device, any personal delivery device as defined in section 4511.513 of the Revised Code, any device that is moved by power collected from overhead electric trolley wires or that is used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks, or any device, other than a bicycle, that is moved by human power.” (O.R.C. – 4511.01(A)).

A regular attorney would look at that and say, “An e-scooter falls under the definition of a ‘vehicle’ and can be subject to DUI laws.” Although this is on the right track, a more efficient attorney will make sure this is the absolute truth and dive into other laws just to make sure. The vehicle definition states that it should be “drawn upon a highway.” Well, it’s safe to say that those riding e-scooters won’t be driving on a highway anytime soon, but it’s important to still look at the definition of a “highway” according to Ohio state law. O.R.C – 4511.01 (AA) states “Public roads and highways for vehicles includes all public thoroughfares, bridges, and culverts.” This doesn’t provide us any information so the next question to ask is whether an e-scooter law is subject to only the roads. The answer to this is clear in the DUI statute, O.R.C 4511.19(A), which prohibits DUI anywhere in Ohio. This can mean on the road, sidewalk, park, or on water.

We then could dissect the vehicle definition even more and see that excludes “any electric personal assistive mobility device”. We may be on to something, but prior experience shows that laws contain definitions for many things, including things we believe we already know the definition to. O.R.C. – 4511.01(TT): “Electric personal assistive mobility device” means a self-balancing two non-tandem wheeled device that is designed to transport only one person, has an electric propulsion system of an average of seven hundred fifty watts, and when ridden on a paved level surface by an operator who weighs one hundred seventy pounds has a maximum speed of less than twenty miles per hour.”

So, Can I Get a DUI on a Motorized Scooter?

This is very close, but no cigar. E-scooters contain tandem wheels one behind the other. These fall under every other part of the definition, but it doesn’t completely meet the definition as it pertains to the law. This extra research helped us connect current state and local laws to determine that riding an e-scooter while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can result in a DUI/OVI. Let our firm help you put your nerves at ease by providing quality and efficient legal representation. With us, you will receive the comfort you need to help you in your time of need. Call us today!