Our Panama City accident lawyer recognized an important reminder in this short WJGH anecdote. We all know that drunk driving is a serious and dangerous offense. However, we don't often consider that other types of vehicles can also prove hazardous when an intoxicated person operates the device.
According to WJGH, police in Brooksville, Florida responded to a call from an area Wal-Mart on Sunday night. They found Timothy Carr driving a motorized shopping cart around the store. Carr was allegedly already drunk when he took an alcoholic beverage from store shelves and drove the cart through the store, knocking items off shelves in the process. Police arrested Carr on charges of disorderly intoxication and, after he told them he was unable to pay for the alcohol he had consumed at the store, felony retail theft. They filed the felony-level charge because Carr had two prior arrests for retail theft.
Carr faces disorderly conduct and theft charges, but could he have also faced DUI charges? Of course, the answer is fact-dependent, but as a general matter Florida law does not limit DUI charges to automobile drivers. Nationwide, DUI charges have been applied to intoxicated individuals operating: motorcycles/mopeds, bicycles, golf carts, snowmobiles, motorized scooters, lawn mowers, farm equipment, and even horse-powered carriages.
In Florida, the statute prohibiting driving under the influence applies "if the person is driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle" while intoxicated (Florida Statutes Sec. 316.193). Earlier in the same chapter of the statutes, the law defines vehicle broadly as "[e]very device, in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, excepting devices used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks" (Florida Statutes Sec. 316.003(75)). Boating under the influence is also against the law but is covered in a separate, specific statute (Florida Statutes Sec. 327.35).
Readers of this blog know that the criminal and civil systems are distinct. However, the fact that the criminal law recognizes that driving under the influence is a problem that extends beyond automobiles is useful to civil claimants. Drunk driving dangers, like drunk driving charges, extend beyond automobiles. The reality is that innocent victims can be injured by careless operation of any vehicle, including scooters, golf carts, and even bicycles.
Bystanders, passengers, and occupants of other vehicles are at risk when an intoxicated person chooses to operate any of these vehicles. Motorcycles are particularly dangerous when mixed with alcohol. ATVs have also been involved in numerous accidents as a result of people operating the vehicles while intoxicated.
With more than three decades of experience, Attorney Pittman knows that accidents take many forms. Alcohol fuels a wide-range of mishaps, and individuals who drink irresponsibly should be held accountable for their actions. If you have been hurt in an accident caused by an intoxicated person, please call our Panama City injury law firm.