The hoverboard made a big splash as a popular gift item this past holiday season. With more outdoor activities during the Minnesota summer months, these boards have become a common site on the streets and at festivals. With this growing fun comes a new risk as enthusiasts are bound to mix alcohol with their hovering.
It’s not much of a stretch to imagine someone with a few drinks under their belt getting up the courage and stepping onto one of these two-wheeled, balancing boards, losing their balance and crashing into a group of people, causing injury to others. How will the police respond? Are they likely to consider it a pedestrian accident or will they opt to throw the weight of the law behind the case and charge the person with driving while intoxicated? Can a person get a DWI on a hoverboard in Minnesota? Minnesota court precedence would seem to say “no,” but no case involving a hoverboar has been tried yet, so the answer really is a bit of an unknown.
RULINGS ON THE SEGWAY
Minnesota’s driving while intoxicated law deems it a crime for any person “to drive, operate, or be in physical control of any motor vehicle” while under the influence of alcohol or having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more. Minnesota courts have extended the definition of a motor vehicle beyond cars and trucks to include ATVs, motorcycles, motor boats and even a motorized reclining chair and a Zamboni.
But in a 2013 case, the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld a judge’s ruling that a Segway does not qualify as a motor vehicle. In that case, Mark Greenman, a Minneapolis employment attorney, was stopped when his Segway veered into the road as he was heading home from a bar in Medina. His blood alcohol registered 0.19, and he was charged with DWI. Greenman beat a similar charge in 2011 when he was using the Segway because he had a broken ankle. The Segway at that time was declared to be an “electrical personal assistive mobility device,” so it did not qualify as a motor vehicle. The state appealed the 2013 judge’s ruling based on the fact Greenman no longer needed the Segway for medical purposes, but the Appeals Court still ruled in his favor and backed the judge’s decision to dismiss the charge.
The courts previously ruled in 2009 that a person operating a motorized scooter was not liable for DWI because the scooter, much like a wheelchair, was classified as a “personal mobility device.”
A SEGWAY COUSIN?
Whether the rulings will apply to the battery-powered, self-balancing, two-wheeled, motorized boards known as hoverboards remains unknown, but the Segway appears to be the closest cousin for the courts to consider in any future rulings. However, because it is motorized, and not powered by human action like say a bicycle, the courts could rule against the hoverboard. Chances are strong that police officers would opt to charge the inebriated operator of a hoverboard with a DWI and leave it for the courts to sort out. Be aware of this if you are drinking and step onto a hoverboard. You could face a DWI charge and have to take your case through the court system at the very least to get your record cleared.
If you have been charged with any crime, DWI or other, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to guide you through the complexities of the law. Jennifer Speas offers more than 15 years of experience in all phases of criminal law in Minnesota. Contact us if you or a family member needs representation in the Minnesota criminal courts.