For those that are not familiar with a Segway, it is a two-wheeled, self-balancing, battery-powered personal transportation device. A Minnesota lawyer has been charged with driving under the influence on at least three occasions for riding his Segway while intoxicated. One of the cases was recently dismissed by an appellate court after the court held that the Segway was not really a "vehicle" but instead should be governed by regulations pertaining to pedestrians.
Is a Segway a "Vehicle" Under the Pennsylvania DUI Law?
Every state has passed its own Vehicle Code and thereby may define what is prohibited under the DUI law differently. The issue in this case would be whether a Segway falls under Pennsylvania's definition of "vehicle" and thereby could be the basis for a DUI charge. Most people do not realize that they can be charged with a Pennsylvania DUI for riding a bike on a roadway or trafficway.
The phrase "vehicle" is defined at 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 102 as being "[e]very device in, upon or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except devices used exclusively upon rails or tracks," but the "term does not include a self-propelled wheel chair or an electrical mobility device operated by and designed for the exclusive use of a person with a mobility-related disability." A Segway is clearly a device that could be used to transport a person upon a highway, but the issue then becomes whether a Segway is a mobility device operated by a person with a mobility-related disability.
Why is there an exclusion for mobility devices?
Consider a person that is paralyzed and uses an electric wheelchair to move from place to place. If that person has a few drinks at a bar and then rides the wheelchair into the parking lot to get a ride home from friends, would that person have violated the Pennsylvania DUI by driving a "vehicle" in a trafficway, meaning the parking lot? Basically, if a "vehicle" included mobility devices for disabled people, then such people really could only drink at home.
I believe that the gray area with the Segway and the Pennsylvania DUI law would be how a court defines "mobility-related disability." If the court felt that the person was using the Segway as a mobility device to alleviate a disability, then I do not believe that the Segway would be a "vehicle" and thereby not subject the rider to the DUI law. However, if the Segway rider was not considered to be disabled, then the Segway would not fall under the mobility device exclusion and thereby probably would be considered a vehicle. In conclusion, whether or not Pennsylvania considers a Segway a "vehicle" and thereby subject to the DUI law may vary depending upon the disability-status of the rider.
As evidenced by this article, the law often does not make sense and its application can vary depending upon the precise facts and circumstances in a case. Because a Pennsylvania DUI charge carries serious mandatory penalties, it is imperative that any person charged with driving under the influence has the case reviewed by an experienced defense lawyer. Penn State DUI lawyer Jason S. Dunkle has been representing clients in Central Pennsylvania charged with criminal offenses since 2004.