Motor-Scooter DUI in Washington State?
June 18th, 2009
By now we have all seen and heard the motor scooter zipping down the side of the road or perhaps on a sidewalk. Ever wonder what would happen if for some reason you were stopped by the police and you had a few drinks before hopping on one of these? Well, I can tell you from the experience of one of my clients that you will likely be arrested for DUI. These are extremely interesting cases from a legal standpoint, and they still cause just as much stress for those charged with a Washington State DUI. The crime of Driving While Under the Influence, or DUI, is found in RCW 46.61.502 and as a consequence of the “arrest” a person faces the loss of a license for at least 90 days pursuant to RCW 46.20.308 and/or if there is a subsequent “DUI conviction.” However, the loss of license is a strange result in a motor scooter DUI charge considering the fact that a person does not need a license to ride one of these motor scooters. The deprivation of a person’s license for a Washington State DUI arrest and/or conviction is traditionally thought of as a sanction agreed to by a driver when obtaining a license to drive a vehicle such as a car or truck. While the motor scooter is technically “motorized” for purposes of Washington State DUI law, a different statute excludes the motor scooter under certain specific circumstances; the size of the wheel! It is the wheel, not the rubber part of the tire, but the steel wheel that the tire wraps around that is the determining factor as to whether it is legally a “motor vehicle.” The threshold is 10 inches. If it is more than a 10 inch wheel diameter, then the device is in fact a motor vehicle. However if the wheel is less than 10 inches in diameter, the statute excludes the scooter from being a “motor vehicle.”
Despite this bizarre statutory situation, operation of this scooter does not require a driver’s license, but the reality is if stopped by the police and arrested for DUI, a person will face a loss of their drivers license unless quick legal action is taken by an experienced Washington State DUI lawyer. My client faced the loss of his license as a result of this exact scenario above but I was able to convince a court that the motor scooter driver was not subject to Implied Consent Law for a breath test and so we prevailed in court. I was then able to use the court’s order to stop the Department of Licensing from administratively suspending my client’s license because the Court found and ordered that rights and obligations under the breath test statute were not triggered in this very unique case and the test was unlawfully procured. While this particular case was a success, it highlights the legal perils of operating anything close to a motor vehicle on roadways, or sidewalks after having consumed alcohol. Moral of the story: Even if the vehicle is a mere motor scooter, Washington State DUI law is complex but an experienced Washington State DUI attorney will do everything possible to obtain a good result to your case.