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Yes, You Can Get a DUI in a Wheelchair

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

Being drunk on wheels is never a good idea, but can you be slapped with a DUI for being drunk in a wheelchair? It may sound ludicrous, but the answer is typically yes.

Case in point: A disabled Ohio man was found swerving in his motorized wheelchair on a road about a mile from his home, the New York Daily News reported this week. Donald Law, 44, was charged with a misdemeanor OVI (operating a vehicle under the influence).

Here's what you need to know about wheelchair DUIs:

Don't Need a Car to Get a DUI

Although most DUI charges stem from being drunk while operating a car, you can easily get any of the following DUIs without one:

The basic elements in all of these non-car DUI cases is that a person was above the legal drinking limit (0.08 percent BAC) and on/in/operating something that was moving. However, you can even get a DUI when you're parked and sleeping it off.

Wheelchair DUIs Aren't Hypothetical

Perhaps surprisingly, the recent wheelchair OVI incident in Ohio isn't unique.

Ask Raymound Kulma, 55, who landed his seventh DUI by piloting a stolen motorized wheelchair; his BAC was three times the legal limit. In a separate incident, a 63-year-old Pennsylvania woman was also charged for DUI while riding her motorized wheelchair around a mobile home park at 4 a.m., reports PennLive.

Pennsylvania's laws, like many other states, have broad definitions of "driving" under the influence. In these states, you may receive a DUI so long as you are in "physical control" of a vehicle and too impaired to safely control that vehicle.

That means that operating or being in control of a wheelchair -- motorized or not -- while drunk can be grounds for a DUI arrest.

Are Wheelchair DUIs Discriminatory?

For those individuals who need wheelchairs to move from place to place, a wheelchair DUI may seem like malarkey -- especially when other drunk individuals can legally walk (or stumble) home.

The Americans with Disabilities Act prevents government discrimination based on disability, and unequal treatment from wheelchair DUIs might qualify. But short of hiring a civil rights attorney, a better strategy for avoiding wheelchair DUIs is to not operate a wheelchair while impaired.

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