The battery powered, self-balancing, two wheeled, motorized boards commonly referred to as hoverboards, despite the fact that they operate on wheels rather than actually hovering, have rapidly grown in popularity and were one of the most sought after gifts this past holiday season. The fact that these boards are motorized would lead a person to believe that operation of one while under the influence of alcohol could result in DWI charges. However, when Minnesota case law regarding DWI’s and Segways is examined the potential liability for being charged with a DWI while riding a hoverboard becomes less clear.
Under Minnesota’s DWI statutes, it is a crime for any person to drive, operate, or be in physical control of any motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or having a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more. For the purpose of DWI’s, “motor vehicle” means every vehicle that is self-propelled. The term includes motorboats in operation and off-road recreational vehicles, but does not include a vehicle moved solely by human power.
Because a hoverboard is motorized rather than moved solely by human power, it would seem to fall squarely within the definition of a motorized vehicle, thus subjecting intoxicated users to potential DWI charges. However, the Minnesota Court of Appeals has in the past held that Segways are not motor vehicles for purposes of the DWI statute and that a person cannot be convicted of a DWI for riding a Segway while intoxicated.
A Segway, much like a hoverboard, is a two-wheeled, self-balancing, battery-powered device. So the argument could be made that because Segways have been held to not be motor vehicles for purposes of the DWI statutes in Minnesota, that hoverboards should also fall outside the definition of motor vehicle as it applies to the DWI statutes.
As far we know this issue has yet to be litigated in Minnesota courts. Because the law is unclear, a person runs the risk of being charged with a DWI if they operate a hoverboard while intoxicated, which would require them to contest the charges in court. If you have been charged with a DWI while riding a hoverboard, it would certainly be worth challenging in court due to the state of the case law in Minnesota right now.
If you or a loved one are facing DWI charges or any kind, call the attorneys at The Law Office of John J. Leunig today for a free consultation at 952-540-6800.