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Are Nonmotorized Vehicles Safe From OVI Charges?

It's commonly believed a person can't be charged with an OVI (Operating a Vehicle Impaired) if they're using a nonmotorized vehicle, such as a bicycle when they're pulled over. However, many states have expanded their OVI and DUI (Driving Under the Influence) laws to include conveyances that aren't cars, trucks, boats, or planes. If you're hit with an OVI for operating a nonmotorized vehicle while intoxicated, here's what you need to know to help you defend yourself in court.

Not All Nonmotorized Vehicles are Included

Although the category of nonmotorized vehicles includes a number of different types of transportation, not all of them would earn you an OVI charge if you were to operate them while intoxicated. The exception to the rule includes some rideable animals, assistive mobility devices, skateboards, certain lawnmowers, and modes of transportation that aren't meant to be used on public roads.

In some cases, a nonmotorized vehicle that would otherwise be exempt may cause you to get an OVI if you used it in combination with other things. For instance, riding a horse intoxicated may only get you a warning, but you'll be hit with an OVI charge if you hook that horse up to a carriage and drive them on the roadways.

It's important to note that each state is different, and what may be exempt in one state may be illegal in another. It's best to consult with an OVI attorney who can research the laws relevant to your state and help you develop an adequate defense to the charges.

The Penalties May Be Less Severe

Even though you may be caught operating a nonmotorized vehicle while intoxicated, the penalties for doing so may be less severe than if you were operating a car or boat. For instance, in some states, you would only get a traffic violation. Though this may result in a fine and add points to your license, you'd escape the potential jail time that can come with getting convicted of a DUI.

In other states, though, you would still be charged with a DUI but it may be possible to argue for a lesser charge, especially if no one was hurt and you weren't actually posing a danger to anyone. If you were riding a bicycle in an empty parking lot, you could negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce the DUI to a reckless driving charge, which is typically a misdemeanor.

Regardless of what you're actually charged with, it's important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer can help protect your rights and ensure you get a fair trial.

Contact a local criminal law attorney for more information.