I recently came across an article about a DUI case that was very different on many fronts. Instead of being a typical driving under the influence situation in which the driver is swerving all over the road, the police conduct a traffic stop that leads to administration of field sobriety tests, a DUI arrest, and a blood test, this case involved a hit-and-run accident in which the drunk driver crashed into a mobile home and then attempted to flee from the scene by stealing a Power Wheels truck parked nearby. Oh, if that were not odd enough, the woman also wasn't wearing shoes or pants. The woman's theft and attempted escape via Power Wheel was thwarted when the child's father demanded that the woman exit from the truck. She complied and then walked to her mother's mobile home nearby. The police arrived and arrested the woman for driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident. Her blood alcohol level was a .217%.
Expected Pennsylvania Criminal Charges
Everyone knows that had this incident occurred in Pennsylvania, the woman would be facing charges of Driving Under the Influence, in violation of 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3802, and Accidents Involving Damage to Attended Property, in violation of 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3743. The Accidents Involving Damage to Attended Property is basically hit-and-run, and it is a misdemeanor of the third degree punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a mandatory fine of $2,500.00. If this were the woman's first offense of DUI, the mandatory minimum sentence would be 72 hours in jail, a $1,000.00 fine, and a 12-month Pennsylvania license suspension.
What some people may not think about is that the woman could probably be charged with theft related to driving off in the Power Wheel, even if she only made it a short distance. With the Power Wheel, the district attorney could claim that the child's toy was a "motor-propelled vehicle," and a theft of a motor propelled vehicle is a felony of the third degree and thereby punishable by up to 7 years in jail and a $15,000.00 fine. I am sure that some readers are thinking that the battery powered toy doesn't have a motor or is not a "vehicle." First, the Power Wheel has a battery-powered motor, and the fact that it is not a gas-fueled motor would not matter. Second, as noted in other articles, a "vehicle" in Pennsylvania is a very broad concept and includes bikes. A Power Wheel could be used to transport a person and thereby would likely be considered a vehicle under Pennsylvania law. Therefore, if you happen to have a few drinks some Saturday afternoon and think that it would be funny to take the kid's Power Wheel for a spin, make sure that you only ride in your yard and driveway but do not venture onto the street in front of the house.
It is not surprising that the actions of this pantless drunk woman would result in severe criminal penalties because she drove while under the influence of alcohol, crashed into a home, and then fled the scene by attempting to steal a Power Wheel. What people probably would not expect is that the least severe of the criminal actions would likely carry the most severe penalties. This is yet another example of Pennsylvania laws not making sense.