One of my favorite topics to write about is the odd and unusual vehicles (or non-vehicles) that people get caught driving while intoxicated. I’ve written about DUIs involving bicycles, horses, river rafts, and even Power Wheels. Today, I have something new. A Minnesota man was arrested last year for operating a Segway while intoxicated.
Mark Greenman, of Medina, Minnesota, hopped on his Segway after shooting some billiards at a local bar. On his way home, Greenman stopped by a Medina police officer after he was observed veering into the road. With a blood alcohol content of 0.19 percent, Greenman allegedly failed field sobriety tests and was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.
For Greenman, who is an attorney himself, challenging Segway DUI charges is not unfamiliar. He was successful in fighting a nearly identical case two years earlier. In the 2010 case, Greenman filed a motion to dismiss the charges arguing that the Segway was not a vehicle. A judge agreed and granted the motion.
This time however, the city of Medina decided to file an appeal after a Hennepin County district judge threw out the charges.
In January, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that the Minnesota DUI laws do not apply to Greenman’s Segway because it is an “electric personal assistive mobility device” that is similar to a battery operated wheel chair. The court likened Greenman’s situation to the previous case of James Anthony Brown Jr. where it determined that Brown’s battery operated motor scooter was “a means of mobility ‘to experience life and complete his day to day necessities.'” Furthermore, the court reasoned that the scooter was dissimilar from a vehicle that a person could commit a DUI in because it had a top speed of 5.75 miles per hour and it did not require a driver’s license to operate one. Although Brown was found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.17 percent, the court found that Brown could not commit a DUI in his scooter.
The dissenting judge of Greenman’s three judge panel argued that the Segway fits within the definition of a “vehicle” as a “device in, upon or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway …”
The Hennepin County Attorney has been awaiting the results of Greenman’s appeal because, believe it or not, one month after the DUI arrest that was the basis for this case, Greenman was arrested yet again for DUI while on his Segway. In March of 2012, one month after his previous DUI arrest, Greenman was arrested when officers found him lying the in the street after his Segway hit a pothole. Medina Police Chief Jason Nelson stated that it was unlikely that the County Attorney would pursue the March 2012 charges against Greenman given the court’s ruling.
Although I don’t disagree with the outcome, I do find it curious. While DUI laws vary from state to state, the rationale behind considering non-traditional methods of transportation “vehicles” for purposes of a DUI charge have remained quite consistent: If a drunk driver can cause harm to the public or themselves on a particular method of transportation, then it should fall within DUI laws. It would seem that many courts could consider Greenman’s Segway a “vehicle” if they find that an intoxicated individual poses a danger to himself while operating one. And they certainly could have concluded that in this case when Greenman veered into the street in one case and took a nosedive after hitting a pothole in the second.
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