A woman in Florida was charged with DUI in April of 2017 for horseback riding under the influence of alcohol. This article breaks down some of the reasoning behind the charges, but some of the takeaways don't add up. These outrageous charges have prompted many to question whether riding a horse intoxicated is actually a crime in the state of Florida. Read answers to this question and more from defense attorney Thomas Grajek below.
Interpreting the Law
So the question remains: Is DUI Horseback really a crime in Florida? No, and here’s why the charges are invalid. When it comes to interpreting the law there are a few important elements to dissect:
- • wording and diction;
- • context;
- • precedence;
- • legal statutes;
- • and provisions.
1. A Horse is Not Legally a Vehicle According to Florida Law
A horse is not technically a "vehicle" under Florida's DUI law or criminal statutes.
§ 316.003(75), Florida Statute (97) Vehicle defines a vehicle as:
"every device, in, upon or by which any person or property is, or may be, transported or drawn upon a highway, except personal delivery devices and devices used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks."
SOURCE: Florida State Legislature website
2. A Device is Technically Man-Made, Not a Living Thing
Dictionary.com defines the word device simply as:
"a thing made or adapted for a particular purpose, especially a piece of mechanical or electronic equipment."
3. California Laws Do Not Apply in Florida
A similar California case was used as precedent in this article. In 1993, California’s People v. Fong, the California Court said that under California Law (§ 21050 cited below) people riding or driving animals are expected to follow the same traffic laws as those driving motorized vehicles.
The exact wording of California Vehicle Code § 21050 defining a vehicle states that:
"Every person riding or driving an animal upon a highway has all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this division and Division 10 (commencing with Section 20000), except those provisions which by their very nature can have no application."
SOURCE: California State Legislature website
4. Florida Driving Laws Do Not Consider Animals Vehicles
In sharp contrast to California law, Florida’s State Uniform Traffic Control statute § 316.073 makes an exception of the applicability of the laws for operating or driving a vehicle that is an animal.
"316.073 Applicability to animals and animal-drawn vehicles.—Every person driving an animal-drawn vehicle upon a roadway is subject to the provisions of this chapter applicable to the driver of a vehicle, except those provisions of this chapter which by their nature can have no application. The provisions of this chapter applicable to pedestrians, with the exception of §316.130(3), apply to any person riding or leading an animal upon a roadway or the shoulder thereof.”
SOURCE: Florida Statutes website
Horseback DUI is Not a Valid Crime in Florida
Florida statute §316.130(3) gives guidance for interpreting the law for those driving an animal as it relates to motor vehicle crimes. Florida law holds that a person riding on horseback is treated like a pedestrian, not the driver of a vehicle. Therefore, the answer is officially no. DUI horseback is not a valid crime in Florida.