Two men were arrested last week in downtown Austin after parading through the streets drunk atop horses. Okay, one was actually a mule, but both men were outfitted in their finest western wear, snapping photos with passersby and garnering some serious attention.
Both men were arrested (and their animals were taken into custody), and taken downtown to the Travis County Jail. According to the Austin Statesman, the judge wouldn’t sign off on one of the men’s charges and he was released. The other, however, was held.
According to officers at the scene, they were called out after reports of the men indicated drivers were having to swerve around them in busy downtown Friday night traffic. While there seems to be no law against riding horses on the streets of Austin, the officers felt the men’s presence was a safety risk and had further issues with the scene when it was obvious at least one of the men was intoxicated.
Ultimately, charges of DWI would be dropped by the local prosecutor who stated he researched other similar cases in Ohio and Pennsylvania, cases that ultimately didn’t stand up in courts. It isn’t exactly clear why but the reasons could be due to the definitions under statute.
A DWI charge is defined as being intoxicated while in control of a “motor vehicle”. While the Statesman states a mule fits this definition, I have my doubts. Namely, because there’s no motor in a farm animal.
Now both men face public intoxication tickets instead, though they still may have to pay a $500 fine, it’s a far cry from the criminal charge they initially faced. The animals also spent a few nights locked up, impounded first in the animal’s version of a holding cell, a “small barn” not designed for large animals but cats and dogs, and ultimately being transferred to an animal hospital. They will also have to be bailed out, with a $50 impound fee for each day they were in custody.
Although a horse doesn’t seem to qualify as a motor vehicle, there have been local cases which involved DWI on a lawnmower. And although a car would be more dangerous to the general public, a motivated prosecutor will push a case on a lawnmower just as hard as one in a pickup truck or minivan.
If you are facing DWI charges, you don’t have time to concern yourself with the legal definitions—that’s your attorney’s job. You’ve got potential jail time, fines, and a lack of driving privileges to worry about. DWI charges carry serious ramifications, and we aren’t just talking about a humorous video of your arrest. (See here for the video of the DWI horseback bandits).